Computational Archaeology Laboratory

The purpose of the laboratory is to harness mathematical and computational methods to support archaeological research, documentation and visualization. The laboratory is equipped with modern, high precision scanners which provide digital three dimensional models of archaeological finds. 

The lab has developed several programs, all eqquiped with research-oriented tools. The different programs are dedicated to different types of finds - ceramics and stone vessels etc. (items with axis symmetry; Pottery 3D), lithic artefacts, figurines, stamps, lamps and more (Artifact 3D), and a newly developed program aimed at documenting and analysing engravings and cut marks (Cut 3D).

Scanning ceramics at the 3D lab; photo by Tal RogovskiPottery 3-D is designed for the documentation and analysis of sherds and complete vessels. It can also be harnessed to manipulate other artifacts with axial symmetry as some glass or stone artifacts etc. This program is an efficient, fast and accurate procedure to position and draw pottery fragments at a rate and reliability exceeding by far the traditional manual methods. The program was applied successfully for analyzing thousands of sherds. A computer-based classification in typological ‘families’ is constructed based on these shape features. Finally, the use of 3-D models allows to extract a series of quantitative measurement describing the object: as the volume capacity of complete vessels or the degree of deformation from a perfect cylindrical symmetry.

Artifact 3D is designed for the documentation and analysis of archaeological finds as lithic tools, ground-stone tools, art objects, bones etc. The program positions the artifact based on its intrinsic geometric properties and generates a conventional representation with views, transversal sections and other visual aids in plates suitable for publication. The program can also perform linear measurements, angle calculations and geometric morphometric analysis. Further, the software is able to extract quantitative parameters that can only be obtained based on 3-D information.

3D Lab; Photo by Tal Rogovski

Selected Publications:

  • Valletta, F., U. Smilansky, A. N. Goring-Morris, and L. Grosman. 2020. On measuring the mean cutting-edge angle of lithic tools based on 3-D models – A case study from the Southern Levantine Epipalaeolithic. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.12 (2):49
  • Harush, O., N. Glauber, A. Zoran, and L. Grosman. 2019. On Quantifying and Visualizing the Potter’s Personal Style. Journal of Archaeological Science 108:104973.
  • Grosman L., 2016. Reaching the point of no return: Computation Revolution in Archaeology. Annual Review of Anthropology 45 (1):129-145.
  • Grosman L., A. Karasik, O. Harush, and U. Smilansky. 2014. Archaeology in Three Dimensions. Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage studies (JEMAHS) 2:48-64.
  • Grosman, L., A. Karasik, and U. Smilansky. 2012. Archaeology in 3-D: new computational methods in Archaeology. Qadmoniot 144:106-114 (In Hebrew). 
  • Karasik, A. and Smilansky U. 2011. Computerized morphological classification of ceramics. Jorunal of Archaeological Science 38(10):2644-2657.
  • Grosman, L., O. Smikt, and U. Smilansky. 2008. On the application of 3-D scanning technology for the documentation and typology of lithic artifacts. Journal of Archaeological Science 35: 3101–3110.
  • Karasik, A., and Smilansky U., 2008. 3D scanning technology as a standard archaeological tool for pottery analysis: practice and theory, Journal of Archaeological Science 35(5):1148-1168.

scanning_Timna_Valley; Photo: Liron Narunsky

The laboratory operates two 3-D scanners:

  • Manufactures by Polygon Technology (Darmstadt, Germany) and purchased in 2005 by Weizmann Institute of Science and Haifa University with the support of Israel Science Foundation.
  • Manufactures by Polygon Technology (Darmstadt, Germany) purchased in 2007 by Weizmann Institute of Science