Software for 3D Analysis of Scanned Archaeological Artifacts

Grosman Leore, HUJI, Faculty of Humanities, Institute of Archaeology

Uzy Smilansky, The Weizmann Institute, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Avshalom Karasik, Israel Antiquity Authority


Sophisticated yet user friendly computer applications to analyze and record archaeological artifacts, based on 3D digital models obtained by standard optical scanning technology


Innovation summary

The technology, intended for digital documentation and analysis of archaeological finds, makes use of optical scans of the artifacts which generates accurate 3D digital models. Sophisticated algorithms analyze the 3D models, extracting precise object measurements, and thereby providing a powerful tool for typological analyses and classification. This analysis reveals compelling information - otherwise unavailable using traditional documentation - including distinctive characteristics and production techniques of workshops and of individual craftsmen.  It also eliminates the need to manually draw artifact saving on costs and time.



The artifacts are scanned using a high-precision commercial 3D optical scanner. A set of proprietary software programs position and measure the artifacts, computing various attributes which characterize their shape. The programs draw the objects and produces printer-ready documentation of the artefacts, in compliance with the Archaeological standards.


Two separate programs are provided for processing artifacts, according to the type and geometry of the objects:


  • Program for analyzing fragments of wheel-produced ceramics: The program computes the axis of symmetry and the profile of ceramic fragment even when they cover only 15% of the vessel circumference.  This data is used for clustering ceramic assemblages and for drawing print-ready potsherd plates. The application provides also the volume of vessels from their profile.  
  • Program for modelling asymmetrical or irregular-shaped objects (such as stone tools, figurines, coins and other that are not produced on a potters-wheel): The program computes the object’s intrinsic geometric properties and dimensions, and provides objective  positioning of  asymmetrical objects based on geometrical criteria.  The later are used for producing 2D views and sections.  It also extracts precise measurements of the surface area of distinctive features, such as scars and ridges, which are mapped on the model as part of the artifact. The application offers several functions which include e.g., determination of the location of the center of gravity, or the mean angle between adjacent palnar sections of the surface. Snapshots from various angles are provided, and flexible editing functions are available for image analysis.



The Artifact3-D program for artifact documentation and analysis (after Grosman 2016). The Neolithic mask is from the Israel Museum Collection, exhibited at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.



  • Fast, low-cost, and accurate solution for digital conservation and documenting of artifacts
  • Easy extraction of precise measurements
  • Effective for typological analysis and the study of ancient tools
  • Editing functions available for image analysis
  • Fast analysis in the field during archaeological excavations
  • Easily integrated in archaeological databases

Development milestones

The two software programs are already being utilized intensively for documenting and analysing of artifacts. So far, more than 60,000 artifacts, retrieved from over 100 archaeological sites, were scanned and analysed. Our aim is to improve the user interface and to add several innovative analytical options.



  • Effective for archaeological research intended for academic researchers, students, museum curators, and the general public
  • Possible use for consistency and QA checks in various industries


Contact for more information:

Anna Pellivert
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