By Alex Fitzpatrick
February 27, 2014

After road construction on the Pan-American Highway revealed a mysterious whale graveyard in Chile, researchers scrambled to figure out why so many of the mammals died in the same spot. After ongoing construction threatened to disrupt scientific studies at the site, Smithsonian paleontologists along with its 3D Digitization Program Office used 3D scanners to take a virtual “snapshot” of the site.

That snapshot — which is also being 3D-printed — is allowing researchers to continue their investigation of the site long after the fossils were moved to a local museum.

Write to Alex Fitzpatrick at alex.fitzpatrick@time.com.

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