Adventurous Professor 3D-Scans The World’s Oldest Ham And Peanut


"How could one resist 3D scanning the world's oldest ham and world's oldest peanut?"

That's what Bernard Means asked himself when standing face-to-face with old pig guts and a legume. The unlikely artifacts are on display at the Isle of Wight County Museum, drawing curious onlookers to Smithfield, Va.

The ham, it seems, was left hanging from a rafter in an abandoned packing house. Some 20 years later, in 1922, it was rediscovered by its owner, trotted around town as a marvel, and later made famous by "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!" museum. The meat remains largely intact (though completely unappetizing), now 113 years since it was cured. It is so popular that you can watch it 24/7 on the museum's Ham Cam. We should warn, however, that watching a live video of a ham is about as exciting as it sounds.

The peanut has a somewhat less-storied history, having been grown in 1890 and showcased as a model peanut by its grower. It remains in perfect, circus-ready shape, 125 years later.

But because these pieces of history are old and delicate, visitors cannot hold the items and inspect what a 100-year-old ham and even older peanut feel like. And in what version of America can you not hold an old ham and peanut? 

Enter Bernard Means. Means is an anthropology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's School of World Studies who specializes in creating replicas of archaeological artifacts, based on 3D scans. Using this highly sophisticated technology, Means and his students will recreate the ham and nut, so that curious visitors can handle the items in their perfect, reproduced glory.

The 3D replicas will also help the museum staff to detect gradual changes in the originals, as they will have dated reproductions for comparison. This will help fine-tune the subtle science of peanut-ham dating.

Of the ham, Means says, "It did have a powerful scent that I cannot describe."

The reproductions should be ready by the end of the spring semester.

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