Putting Together eFossils’ Life-Size Skeleton Printouts

While the classroom has an extensive collection of replica fossils, there was nothing that conveyed a sense of the full stature of our ancestors. I found some cool life-sized printouts at the eFossils site for Lucy, Nariokotome Boy, modern human skeletons. While the layouts are fantastic, the graphics have been enlarged a great deal. This means that the lines are very blurry and would look odd up close. Having access to Adobe Illustrator, I used the Live Trace tool to smooth out the skeletons. I used the text tool to replicate the copyright statements and some of the instructions. The results look great at any distance now:


Turning the graphics to vector also shrank the file size by over half. Yes!

The printouts were intended only for a temporary use, such as taping to a wall or laying on a table, but I also wanted a more permanent construction. I cut cardboard pieces to fit the individual sheets, used a glue stick to attach each printout to a cardboard sheet, and taped them together with transparent packing tape. I taped key joints both front and back to allow some flexibility: the Lucy skeleton printout actually folds up into just one sheet’s area!

{ Hominins in disguise. }

{ Hominins in disguise. }

The Nariokotome Boy printout is larger, so there were some complications. Since it was three sheets in width and around six sheets tall, it was too thick to fold into one sheet. Instead, one column has to be the oddball and stick out and make the folded version two sheets wide and an irregular height. The bottom sheets, for the foreleg, are uneven and have to be cut to match for the obsessive. The right sheets, for the Boy’s left side, are also printed smaller than the other sheets so they have to be trimmed separately. They do not look noticeably thinner than the left sheets, which s good.

{ Nariokotome Boy hanging in the classroom. To-do: make two blank sheets to fill out the lower right corner. }

{ Nariokotome Boy hanging in the classroom. To-do: make two blank sheets to fill out the lower right corner. }

For an added layer of protection, I sprayed Krylon Protect It! on Nariokotome Boy before taping. It did slightly color the sheets slightly, and curled the unglued edges, but it should offer some protection for the ink.

My class this semester was mildly impressed (whelmed?) as I unfolded them with a flourish by holding the head sheets and letting the rest drop out. Some students did remark that they help convey the sense of scale which does not otherwise get across in lecture.

Since these skeletons will see the outside world only two or three days out of the year, they should last forever. Many thanks to eFossils.org for making these files available.

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