Reproducing the internal and external anatomy of fossil bones: Two new automatic digital tools

Antonio Profico*, Stefan Schlager, Veronica Valoriani, Costantino Buzi, Marina Melchionna, Alessio Veneziano, Pasquale Raia, Jacopo Moggi-Cecchi, Giorgio Manzi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: We present two new automatic tools, developed under the R environment, to reproduce the internal and external structures of bony elements. The first method, Computer-Aided Laser Scanner Emulator (CA-LSE), provides the reconstruction of the external portions of a 3D mesh by simulating the action of a laser scanner. The second method, Automatic Segmentation Tool for 3D objects (AST-3D), performs the digital reconstruction of anatomical cavities. Materials and methods: We present the application of CA-LSE and AST-3D methods to different anatomical remains, highly variable in terms of shape, size and structure: a modern human skull, a malleus bone, and a Neanderthal deciduous tooth. Both methods are developed in the R environment and embedded in the packages “Arothron” and “Morpho,” where both the codes and the data are fully available. Results: The application of CA-LSE and AST-3D allows the isolation and manipulation of the internal and external components of the 3D virtual representation of complex bony elements. In particular, we present the output of the four case studies: a complete modern human endocast and the right maxillary sinus, the dental pulp of the Neanderthal tooth and the inner network of blood vessels of the malleus. Discussion: Both methods demonstrated to be much faster, cheaper, and more accurate than other conventional approaches. The tools we presented are available as add-ons in existing software within the R platform. Because of ease of application, and unrestrained availability of the methods proposed, these tools can be widely used by paleoanthropologists, paleontologists and anatomists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)979-986
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2018


  • endocast
  • human evolution
  • malleus bone
  • maxillary sinuses
  • virtual anthropology

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