GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 130-12
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM


KASKES, Pim1, BRUNKE, Luca2, EMAUS, Roeland2, BASTIAANS, Dylan3 and SCHULP, Anne3, (1)Department of Chemistry, Research Unit: Analytical, Environmental & Geo-Chemistry, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, Brussels, B-1050, Belgium; Department of Geology, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Vondellaan 55, Leiden, 2300 RA, Netherlands, (2)Faculty of Archeology, Leiden University, Einsteinweg 2, Leiden, 2333 CC, Netherlands, (3)Department of Geology, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Vondellaan 55, Leiden, 2300 RA, Netherlands,

Since 2013, the National Natural History Museum of the Netherlands, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, is unearthing the largest bonebed of the ceratopsian dinosaur Triceratops discovered so far. At least six individuals of Triceratops are identified and more than 800 bony elements are uncovered from this site of the Upper Maastrichtian Lance Formation in eastern Wyoming, USA. The bonebed consists of disarticulated skeletons chaotically positioned on top of each other and embedded in a variable matrix of organic rich silt and claystones and interfingering fluvial sandstones.

3D surveying, registration and visualization are useful in understanding the taphonomy and architecture of bonebeds, as has been proven in many archeological studies. In paleontology, 3D models based on photogrammetry are widely used, but mainly for visualizing and archiving surfaces of specific bones, single specimens or fossil trackways. Here we introduce a new approach that integrates geology, paleontology and archeology to create 3D models of entire dinosaur excavation sites incorporating the spatial position of all skeletal remains and sedimentary layers.

Terrestrial LiDAR produces a textured digital elevation model of 30x30x10m for the Triceratops bonebed. Drone photogrammetry is used to document the ongoing excavation progress and to allow stratigraphic correlations with sections close by. Geological samples are taken to analyze grain-size, organic content and elemental composition, in order to map the heterogeneity of the sediments surrounding the bones. A GPS rover and a Total Station, commonly used in archeology, are combined to record the x, y and z position of every bony element and lithostratigraphic section. This replaces the traditional 2D grid mapping of bonebeds. In addition, prepared bones are 3D scanned to place them volumetrically correct in their original burial position.

By integrating all these techniques, a multi-layered 3D cube is created and linked to a large GIS database generated over many years of excavation, displaying the vertical and lateral position of the sediments and the bones. Besides virtual (reality) applications in education and museum exhibits, this 3D model aids in linking specific bones to skeletons and helps to unravel the taphonomic history of bonebeds such as the Naturalis’ Triceratops site.