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Computational archaeology in Petra

Recently I did a 2 week trip with a friend to Israel, Jordan and Egypt. During this trip we saw a lot of amazing archaeological sites, which will eventually feature on this blog. Today I want to focus on Petra, Jordan.

Petra is a UNESCO Heritage site in southern Jordan, which has made the list of the new 7 Wonders of the world. Previously known as Raqmu, Petra was a city built during the Nabataean Kingdom as a trading hub. Many of the structures in the city (including the tombs) have been carved into the face of the colourful rocks found in the area.


A photo of the Monastery from our tea drinking spot

I have previously mentioned the Zamani Project , which does 3D models of archaeological sites (mainly focusing on African sites). They have created 3D models of various buildings in the Petra complex, which can be found on their website. The models were done by performing a laser scanning survey, for which the documentation can be found here. The models available include:

  • The Treasury
  • The Urn
  • The Royal Tombs
  • The Byzantine Church

Videos can also be found on Youtube, such as:

There are also some articles and sites mentioning the use of satellite imaging:

You can also find a lot of information about the site on this website. The site includes information about each of the buildings, the events taking place as well as a live stream of the site (which I find a bit creepy considering that I never saw a sign at the place stating that you are being broadcasted to the world). The buildings and natural sites described include:

  • Bab al Siq – en route to the george, this area includes a variety of tombs and monuments.
  • The Dam – a Nabataean dam
  • The Siq – a george which was used as the main entrance to the city
  • The Treasury / Al Khazna – the most well known building in Petra (thanks to Indiana Jones movies). The actual function of the building is a mystery (ranging between temple, document storage, etc), but it was once believed to house a treasure, giving it the modern name of The Treasury.
  • The street of Facades – row of Nabataen tombs
  • The Theater – a Theater built by carving the rock into an amphitheatrical shape
  • The Urn Tomb, the Silk Tomb, the Corinthian Tom, the Palace Tomb, the
  • The Sextius Florentinus tomb – various tombs in the area
  • The Collonaded street – a street with columns later refurbished by the Romans
  • The Buildings, Pond and Gardens Complex – garden and pond
  • The Great Temple – The largest freestanding building in Petra
  • Winged Lion Temple – Discovered using sonar technology, this is a temple for the Nabataean goddess al-Uzza
  • Byzantine Church – The remains of the Byzantine occupation in the area, with well preserved mosaics
  • The Temple of Qasr Al-Bint – A first century BC temple
  • High Place of Sacrifice – A venue for religious ceremonies
  • The Farsa Valley – A lion carved on a rock face
  • The Garden Temple – Likely an old Nabataean water system
  • The Tomb of the Roman Soldier and Funeral Ballroom, the Renaissance Tomb – more tombs around the area
  • The Monastery – used for religious meetings and later used as a Christian chapel. People described it as a difficult hike, a sort of death trap. It really was not a difficult hike, so don’t miss it because of rumours! It is beautiful.



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Course: Recovering the Humankind’s Past and Saving the Universal Heritage

“Recovering the Humankind’s Past and Saving the Universal Heritage” is a Coursera course that will teach you an overview of archaeology and focus on the digitalization of cultural heritage using ICT (information and communication technologies). The course is organised by the Sapienza University of Rome and starts tomorrow (22nd January 2018).

Read up more about the course and sign up here.

See you in the virtual class! 🙂


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Computational archaeology in Athens

This holiday I had the chance to finally visit Athens and it was beautiful. We had great weather considering it is January. As is tradition this lead to some research on how the various sites that we saw have been digitised.

The city is covered in ruins. We stayed in the area of Monastiraki, very close to Hadrian’s library and with a wonderful view of the Acropolis 5 steps from the entrance of the hotel. We were there for four days around new years so, unfortunately, some of the museums that we wanted to visit were closed (like the museum of the ancient Agora). We also got a chance to visit the island of Aegina for a day.

I personally didn’t see any references to computational archaeology this time. However, work in the area has deffinitely been done, as you will see in the following links, with some of my holiday photos sprinkled around:


Odeon at the Acropolis


Pantheon at the Acropolis

  • 3D model of Hadrian’s arch  – This arch is close to the Acropolis, next to the temple of Zeus, each of its sides representing the city of Theseus and city of Hadrian respectively. The model is representative of the arche’S current state.
  • 3D model of Temple of Zeus in Athens– This is a model of what the temple would have looked like.
  • 3D models of the various buildings in Athens – You can explore the various Athenian buildings, such as the Acropolis, in a single model.
  • 3D warehouse of buildings in ancient athens – a warehouse of individual 3D models for different ruins within Athens. This is a collaborative platform so you can add your ow models if you have any.
  • 3D model of Aphaea temple in Aegina – moving towars our trip to Aegina, I quite enjoyed visiting this temple. It is the temple of Aphaea, the goddes of fertility and the agricultural cycle. It is located in a beatiful are with a view of the sea on both sides and is not covered in tourists. The building is also quite well preserved.

Temple of Aphaea

In addition to the above sites we also visited the following interesting sites for which I couldn’t find  a dgital project:

  • Hill of Kolona – a site containing a prehistoric Acropolis, the remains of the temple of Apollo and the ruins of an ancient Sinagogue.

Hill of Kolona

  • Medieval village of Paleachora – The remains of a medieval village, hidden on a hill from pirates, of which pretty much only the churches remain. There are little churches all over the place and a castle at the top of the hill.

Village of Paleachora

Lastly, for the pottery enthusiasts: The hill of Paleachora is covered in surface pottery pieces. If you enjoy spotting these it is a nice place to do it. Here is a picture my favourite find (Plese remember to leave them where you found them if you visit!):


Happy browsing!

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Computational Archaeology in Italy

I just came back from a nice 2 week holiday in Italy, where I was spoiled with archaeology, art and sun (the latter not often seen in Berlin). We visited Napoli, Pompeii, Amalfi, Roma, Siena, Florence, Chianti and Pisa. Somewhere in between waiting for late/imaginary buses and drinking wine, we managed to see some incredible archaeological sites. This post tries to dig a bit deeper into the computational archaeology work done in the larger two of these sites, namely Pompeii and the Roman Forum (including the Colosseum).


Pompeii was an ancient Roman town located in the west of Italy near Mount Vesuvius. The town was subject to common tremours, but was damaged significantly during an earthquake in AD 62. The citizens were repairing the damaged town when Mount Vesuvius, the nearby volcano, erupted in AD 79, killing the inhabitants and leaving the town in the state that popularised it as a touristic and archaelogical site upon rediscovery.


Photo from my visit – Homes and Vesuvius in the background

Visiting Pompeii has been in my wishlist for a long time and it is a place that I would like to visit again. This incredible archaeological site was discovered in 1748 and it is so large that it is still being excavated. It contains homes, roads, an amphitheater, water systems, a Gymnasium, etc. Some of the mosaics and frescoes decorating the buildings have been well preserved. Additionally, due to the unique layer of ash created by the lava covering Pompeii, the famous casts of the human remains of Pompeians can be created using a resin. This is possible because the lava solidified over the body and as the body decomposed, a void was created between the layer of ash and the remaining human bones. A transparent resin is then injected into this void, creating a cast.

Pompeii is one of the sites that I have mentioned in this blog before as technology has often been used to analyse and present it. Here is some of the computational archaeology work that has been done for Pompeii:

  • Google maps street view – I have mentioned this in a previous post about Google maps mapping archaeological sites. You can now explore Pompeii (and other sites) via the commonly used Google app. In the link that I have added you should be able to walk around and also see to your left the pottery and casts discovered.
  • 3D models created by laser scans – Allow people to explore Pompeii virtually. The link provided will take you to an article that links to the project as well as to some raw 3D models.
  • Laser technology used for restoration of Frescos – The lasers aim to remove layers selectively in order to restore the Fresco to its original state.
  • CT scans of Pompeii victim casts – X-rays allow scientists to analyse the remains of Pompeii victims without destroying the casts that preserve their last moments. These scans are also being used to create 3D models of the remains and casts.
  • iPads used by archaeologists to document excavations – Also something mentioned before in this blog. Archaeologists often have paper based systems to document each step of their excavations. Pompeii archaeologists started using iPads in order to improve the recording of data.
  • 3D modeling using aerial imaging – Drones were used to capture areal images of Pompeii, which were used to generate a 3D model for an interactive Journey through the ruins.

The Roman Forum and the Colosseum

The Roman Forum refers to a set of Roman Ruins in the center of Rome which includes a large number of structures ranging from government buildings to temples. This is located near the Colosseum and was the center of life in ancient Rome. The Forum was abandoned following the fall of the western Roman empire and was slowly despoiled.

The Roman Forum contains a senate house, government offices, royal residences, tribunals, temples, memorials, statues, etc. This too is quite a large site. considering that it is in the middle of a modern city.


Roman Forum during my visit

Here is some of the computational archaeology work that has been done for the Roman Forum and Colosseum:


Colosseum during my visit

That’s all for now. If you have not yet had a chance to visit these incredible sites, I hope that these 3D models and virtual tours can give you a glimpse into the ancient Roman towns. Of course, I also wish that one day you can experience them yourself too.

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Computational archaeology news June 2017

As you may have realised, Berlin has kept me quite busy. Now there is some catching up on blogging to do, so here is your dose of computational archaeology.




  • This blog has a large list of Free and Open source software that can be useful for archaeology.
  • The article listed above links to an academic article that speaks about open source software in archaeology.


Blogs, feeds and sites



  • Global Xplorer – crowd sourcing analysis of satellite imaging available to archaeologists.4



Here’s a photo (strategically at the history slide) from the Women Who Code meetup.


Happy reading!


3D modeling updates

The 3D models in archaeology posts seem to be pretty popular, so I decided to add some more content for you 🙂 Here are some links:

Lastly, here is a photo of an interactive display of 3D models. We found this display at a temporary Humbold forum exhibition near the Berliner Dom. Tapping on each model allows you to view that particular model in more detail as well as get more information on it.


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Computational Archaelogy news- January 2017

Once again it has been a while since my last news post, so I’ll be squishing a variety of resources here.



Gihub repositories


Journal Articles

Noticed computational archaeology in museum visit

  • Gemäldegalerie [Berlin]- Audio tour mentions the prior use of CT scans to analyse a Rennaissance artwork revealing planning sketch
  • Naturkundemuseum [Berlin] – There are interactive screens around various displays allowing people to gain more information