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Digital Applications in Archaeology: 3D GIS


Admission requirements

  • BA or BSc degree in Archaeology or a closely related discipline;

  • Admission to the MSc Archaeology programme Archaeological Science;

  • Knowledge and skills about Field Techniques and Geographic Information Systems on a level corresponding to the Leiden BA courses on these topics.


Both the use of GIS and 3D documentation methods have increased dramatically in the past decades. The abilities of 3D GIS have followed suit.
During this course, the application of 3D GIS in archaeology will be discussed in detail. Through practical assignments you will learn how excavation and survey data, elevation models and 3D models can be used for the analysis and presentation of archaeological data.

The course consists of 7 meetings, divided in 3 parts, relating to data acquisition, data analysis and publication. Each class consists of a lecture and a practical tutorial. In this manner you will obtain the theoretical background as well as practical experience with the software and complex data. Real life archaeological data are used for practical assignments to emphasise the complexity of these datasets.

You are required to critically read the literature before class and submit answers to the reading questions available through BlackBoard.

For the final practical assignment, you hone all newly acquired skills in the import, analysis and presentation of archaeological data using 3D GIS. Also a report is written to support the choices made during the phases of the practical assignment.

Course objectives

  • To obtain thorough knowledge of the potential and limitations of 3D GIS applications for archaeological documentation, analysis and presentation;

  • To be able to import and transform excavation data into 3D visualisations using ArcGIS software;

  • To be able to recognise the factors that influence the quality of 3D GIS data, and the effect of these on analyses and presentation;

  • To be able to design a working 3D GIS workflow for archaeological analysis;

  • To be able to publish 3D GIS data as 3D models and movies.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures with self-guided tutorials;

  • Practical assignments;

  • Reading assignments.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 14 hours of lectures and practical work in class (1 ec);

  • 40 hours of practical work at home (2 ec);

  • 140 pages of literature (1 ec);

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

Assessment method

  • Assignments (40%);

  • Final project (practical and written report) (60%).

There is only a retake for the final assignment.

All exam dates (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 the course.


Registration via uSis is mandatory.

  • The Administration Office will register all BA1 students for their tutorials (not lectures; register via uSis!).

  • BA2, BA3, MA/MSc and RMA/RMSc students are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time.

  • The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, students are not required to do this in uSis.


For more information about this course, please contact dr. M.V. (Victor) Klinkenberg.


  • Compulsory attendance;

  • Depending on the amount of participants, students might be required to bring their own laptop for the practical lessons;

  • 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 focus area will be prioritised.