Review of computer-based methods for archaeological ceramic sherds reconstruction

Dariush Eslami, Luca Di Angelo, Paolo Di Stefano, Caterina Pane


Potteries are the most numerous finds found in archaeological excavations; they are often used to get information about the history, economy, and art of a site. Archaeologists rarely find complete vases but, generally, damaged and in fragments, often mixed with other pottery groups. By using the traditional manual method, the analysis and reconstruction of sherds are performed by a skilled operator. Reviewed papers provided evidence that the traditional method is not reproducible, not repeatable, time-consuming and its results have great uncertainties. To overcome the aforementioned limits, in the last years, researchers have made efforts to develop computer-based methods for archaeological ceramic sherds analysis, aimed at their reconstruction. To contribute to this field of study, in this paper, a comprehensive analysis of the most important available publications until the end of 2019 is presented. This study, focused on pottery fragments only, is performed by collecting papers in English by the Scopus database using the following keywords: “computer methods in archaeology", "3D archaeology", "3D reconstruction", "automatic feature recognition and reconstruction", "restoration of pottery shape relics”. The list is completed by additional references found through the reading of selected papers. The 53 selected papers are divided into three periods of time. According to a detailed review of the performed studies, the key elements of each analyzed method are listed based on data acquisition tools, features extracted, classification processes, and matching techniques. Finally, to overcome the actual gaps some recommendations for future researches are proposed.


  • The traditional manual method for reassembling sherds is very time-consuming and costly; it also requires a great deal effort from skilled archaeologists in repetitive and routine activities.

  • Computer-based methods for archaeological ceramic sherds reconstruction can help archaeologists in the above-mentioned repetitive and routine activities.

  • In this paper, the state-of-the-art computer-based methods for archaeological ceramic sherds reconstruction are reviewed, and some recommendations for future researches are proposed.


Computer methods in archaeology; 3D archaeology; 3D reconstruction; automatic feature recognition and reconstruction; restoration of pottery shape relics

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Heritage  vol: 4  issue: 1  first page: 76  year: 2021  
doi: 10.3390/heritage4010004

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