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 3-D), lithic artefacts, figurines, stamps, lamps and more (Artifact 3-D), and a newly developed program aimed at documenting and analysing engravings and cut marks (Cut 3-D).

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
Scanning ceramics at the 3D lab. Photo by Tal Rogovski

ArchCut 3-D is designed for the documentation and analysis of incised and engraved surfaces such as art engravings, cut marks etc. The program follows a selected surface and produces a series of three-dimensional sections at intervals of a millimeter. These successive sections allow to examine the properties of the engraved line at a single point, and changes in the line over the length of the line. The morphological analysis of each line and relations between lines allow for a characterization of the series of actions and motions in the process of engraving.

AGMT3-D (Artifact GeoMorph Toolbox 3-D) is designed to provide the archaeologist interested in artifact shape variability with a toolbox to allow acquisition, analysis, and results exploration of homologous 3D landmark-based geometric morphometric data. As such, the toolbox contains an automated item and semi-landmarks positioning procedure and the fundamental statistical analyses and procedures to allow the processing and analysis of the data. It is designed to be easy to use and straightforward with a simple graphical user interface. Furthermore, it provides direct, quantitative, and objective results to answer common archaeological research questions with regards to artifact shape variability. A detailed user guide is available and can be downloaded with the software here.

Selected Publications
  • Harush, O, and L. Grosman. 2021. Toward the Identification of Social Signatures in Ceramic Production – An Archaeological Case Study. PLOS ONE 16 (7):e0254766.
  • Valletta, F, I. Dag, and L. Grosman. 2021. Identifying Local Learning Communities During the Terminal Palaeolithic in the Southern Levant: Multi-scale 3-D Analysis of Flint Cores. Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology 4 (1):145–168.
  • 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 NarunskyScanning wall engravings at Timna Valley Park. Photo by 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