Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 205–214 | Cite as

Computed tomography in paleoanthropology — an overview

Review

Abstract

Computed tomography (CT) was first applied in the early 1970s and introduced subsequently a new perspective towards anatomical imaging. In the last decade, high-resolution CT (HR-CT) had a high impact on anthropology and paleoanthropology through its ability to define and explore subtle differences in hard tissue structures in fossil and extant humans and nonhuman primates. CT is very suitable for unique fossil material, because it is destruction free and the original material stays intact while the internal structures are digitized. The imaging yields a virtual copy of the object, which can be used for the generation of detailed copies of original fossil material. CT data allow multiple studies in parallel and independently on specimens which are not commonly accessible. Diverse CT systems with different performance characteristics as designed for different functions can make it difficult for a researcher to choose the most appropriate CT system and to check the image quality of CT scans. The physical principles involved in CT imaging and the principles of signal processing and computer graphics can help to choose the best scan setting and the most suitable CT system for a study. Quantitative and qualitative analysis can also be improved and comparisons between different studies can be facilitated when the above mentioned principles are taken into account. In the following, I will give an overview of the different CT systems and discus both theoretical and practical matters of CT imaging using the example of trabecular bone.

Keywords

High-resolution CT Trabecular bone Image noise X-ray attenuation CT artifacts 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoecology, Paleoanthropology, Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, Eberhard Karls University of TübingenTübingenGermany

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