Margaret Farmer: 3D Models of Bones from the Valley of the Nobles

Friday, September 13, 2019

6:30 p.m.—Pre-lecture Reception ($5.00 per person)

7:00 p.m.—Lecture (free) 

Abstract—The process of creating 3D models from photographs of objects at multiple viewpoints—called Structure from Motion (SfM)—is a promising method for comparative morphology in osteology. 

Our modeling project focused on a group of commingled, heavily damaged, and poorly preserved human remains from the Theban Tomb Complex 29 in the Valley of the Nobles in Luxor. Many of the bones were from deteriorated mummies that bore no form of identification. Because none of the materials could be transported off site, we opted to document as much as possible with 3D rendering, which would allow us to analyze virtual models. The 3D rendering will help us determine what kind of trauma or disease the bones endured before, during, and/or after death.

A skull exhibiting trauma is rendered as a 3D point cloud.

The samples were photographed with both a consumer-grade smartphone camera and high-resolution digital camera for reconstruction in 3D. The resulting images were then uploaded to proprietary and open-source SfM softwares in order to compare the renderings for accuracy and quantifiable error.

Because there is such a large volume of material, we are trying to automate the process with machine learning (artificial intelligence)—having a computer make comparisons of different 3D models and draw conclusions about similarities and patterns. The more information we have, the more accurate the machine learning will become. We would like to build a database starting with the remains found at TTC 29, and expand it to include remains found at other sites.

Ultimately, this technology will be deployed in both archaeological and forensic settings to scan entire contexts cheaply and efficiently and recreate them in 3D for later interpretation. This will be particularly helpful in all sorts of situations where the material cannot be removed for further studies. 


505 East Braddock Rd., Alexandria, VA 22314

(across the street from the Braddock Road station on Metro’s blue and yellow lines)


Venue sponsored by Maria and Richard Calderon in association with

 Hands Along the Nile Development Services Inc. (HANDS)


During the pre-lecture reception, there will be a raffle for Egyptian-themed items such as books, journals, jewelry, and DVDs. ARCE-DC members receive a free raffle ticket for each one they buy.

Meet-the-Speaker and Networking Dinner—

After the lecture, join ARCE-DC members and guests for a dinner with the speaker. We will meet at Lena's Wood-Fired Pizza & Tapjust a few blocks away. Each attendee pays for his or her own dinner and contributes an extra $5.00 to defray the cost of the speaker's meal.  Please RSVP to Carol Boyer at  


Margaret Farmer holds a B.S. in Forensic Science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, and a B.F.A. from the Rochester Institute of Technology. As a member of the research team of Angelique Corthals, Farmer traveled in 2017 and 2019 to Luxor to document human remains with 3D imaging at Theban Tomb Complex 29, a site overseen by the Universities of Brussels and Liege, Belgium. Her ongoing research project includes analyzing the digital samples and using them to build a database of digitized 3D bone pathologies. Margaret is currently an adjunct chemistry instructor and math and science tutor at John Jay College. She hopes to enter a graduate / doctorate program for research in applied mathematics within the next year.