Analyzing and simulating fracture patterns of Theran wall paintings

Hijung Shin, Christos Doumas, Thomas Funkhouser, Szymon Rusinkiewicz, Kenneth Steiglitz, Andreas Vlachopoulos, Tim Weyrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


In this article, we analyze the fracture patterns observed in wall paintings excavated at Akrotiri, a Bronze Age Aegean settlement destroyed by a volcano on the Greek island of Thera around 1630 BC. We use interactive programs to trace detailed fragment boundaries in images of manually reconstructed wall paintings. Then, we use geometric analysis algorithms to study the shapes and contacts of those fragment boundaries, producing statistical distributions of lengths, angles, areas, and adjacencies found in assembled paintings. The result is a statistical model that suggests a hierarchical fracture pattern where fragments break into two pieces recursively along cracks nearly orthogonal to previous ones. This model is tested by comparing it with simulation results of a hierarchical fracture process. The model could be useful for predicting fracture patterns of other wall paintings and/or for guiding future computer-assisted reconstruction algorithms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10
JournalJournal on Computing and Cultural Heritage
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Conservation
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


  • Cultural heritage
  • Hierarchical fracture
  • Statistical modeling


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