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Computational methods in archaeology


Admission requirements

BA or BSc degree in Archaeology or a closely related discipline, plus the BA2 courses Data analysis and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) (or other undergraduate courses in Digital Archaeology deemed to be equivalent by the instructor).


This course will provide an in-depth treatment of one of the sub-fields of Digital Archaeology presented in the Digital data acquisition and analysis course. In the academic year 2017-2018, the topic of this course will be “3D Modelling in Archaeology”.

The use of 3D modelling techniques to digitally “reconstruct” (partially) lost buildings and finds has increased dramatically in the last years. The most widespread field of application of 3D visualisations traditionally relates to their use for heritage valorisation, while their contribution as research tools has been explored so far only by few researchers.
In recent years, the increasing use of 3D modelling techniques in the field of cultural heritage has brought about a discussion on best practices, which has resulted in the issuing of guidelines such as the London Charter and the Seville principles. These guidelines, however, are still rarely implemented in practice and a critical reflection on the use of 3D visualisations in archaeology is often lacking.

Through a combination of frontal and practical lessons, this course will familiarise you with the latest developments in this field. You will get hands-on experience with state-of-the-art 3D modelling techniques to visualise multi-scale archaeological evidence, focusing especially on the use of open source and free software packages.
Special attention will be given to the creation of 3D models as an intellectually transparent process and to their application as research tools to test theories and explore different interpretations of the available dataset.

Course objectives

  • Gain 3D modelling skills;

  • Gain familiarity with the main methods and software packages that are currently available to create 3D visualisations;

  • Acquire a good understanding of the range of applications of 3D modelling in present-day archaeology;

  • Identify research questions that can be investigated by using 3D modelling techniques and the most appropriate methodology to tackle them;

  • Develop a workflow for the creation of a scientifically sound and intellectually transparent 3D visualisation.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA and MSc time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Self-guided tutorials;

  • Practical assignments;

  • Reading assignments.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 14 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • 40 hours of practical work (2 ec);

  • 140 pages of literature (1 ec);

  • Essay of 1,500-1,800 words (1 ec).

Assessment method

  • Weekly assignments (practical) (50%);

  • Final assignment (practical and written report) (50%).

There is only a retake for the final assignment.

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the MA and MSc examination schedule.

Reading list

A selection of relevant articles will be indicated during class.


Registration for the course or the exam is not required.


For more information about this course, please contact C. Piccoli MA.


  • Compulsory attendance.

  • For the practical lessons you are required to bring your own laptop.

  • The number of participants is limited to 20, due to limited availability of spaces in the computer lab. Students who need to take this course for their 1st or 2nd specialisation will be prioritised.