Virtual zooarchaeology: building a web-based reference collection of northern vertebrates for archaeofaunal research and education


Betts, Matthew W.; Maschner, Herbert D.G.; Schou, Corey D.Schalder, Robert; Holmes, Jonathan; Clement, NicholasSmuin, Michael

Journal or Book Title: Journal of Archaeological Science

Keywords: Zooarchaeology; Comparative skeletons; Reference collections; 3D scanning; Laser scanning

Volume/Issue: 38/4

Page Number(s): 755.e1-755.e9

Year Published: 2010


Osteological reference collections are a crucial tool in archaeofaunal analysis, but few are comprehensive; most lack a broad range of taxa or multiple individuals per taxon. This problem is especially prominent in arctic zooarchaeology, where difficulty in obtaining, transporting, and processing northern taxa has led to a dearth of appropriate reference collections. The Virtual Zooarchaeology of the Arctic Project, or VZAP, seeks to develop a comprehensive virtual comparative assemblage for the skeletons of northern vertebrates. VZAP ( is designed to assist with identifications in the lab or field and provides significant educational value, for both classroom demonstration and personal consultation. The VZAP website presents high-resolution digital photographs and 3D models of skeletal elements via an intuitive graphical user interface, designed to mimic the visual experience of working with a real comparative collection. This custom-built interface, the Dynamic Image Engine, represents a new way to present heritage media in an interactive and engaging format. VZAP also implements unique 3D scanning protocols to increase the realism of 3D models, and delivers them on a platform that allows for point to point measurements, cross-sections, morphological labels, and anatomical orientations.

DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2010.06.021

Type of Publication: Journal Article