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Old Stones and New Technologies

Computer Vision and Medieval Stone Carving

Project Lead(s): Carlo Tomasi, Caroline Bruzelius


This project was a Humanities Writ Large funded initiative between Professors Caroline Bruzelius and Carlo Tomasi. It focused on capturing data on medieval chisel marks through photography in order to analyze chisel marks and process in the carving of stones for medieval sculpture and buildings.

Simon Verity, a stone carver from St. John the Divine, visited Duke to give students, graduate students & faculty experience in stone cutting. It was featured on Duke Today. Photo by Jared Lazarus/Duke University Photography.

Professor Caroline Bruzelius (Art, Art History & Visual Studies) led a team of Duke undergraduate students on a research trip to Naples over Spring break 2013. They used the opportunity to test a new data capture system for use with medieval masonry, working primarily in the church of San Lorenzo, a Franciscan basilica in the heart of medieval Naples. The students experimented with an analytic system for the study of historic buildings through pattern recognition, data mining, and texture analysis. Their research worked with computational analytics to examine the surface textures left by masons on building stones in order to extract information on the technology of stonecutting, possibly identify individual masons (tool marks are like signatures), and eventually provide educated estimates on the size of the labor force.

This project was part of a multi-year research and teaching initiative that resulted in independent research and senior distinction theses for undergraduates. The student team worked closely with Professor Bruzelius and Professor Carlo Tomasi (Computer Science) to collect data, develop and eventually test the new analytic systems with the intention of creating a systematic protocol for the study of walls, carved surfaces (flat and curved) and masonry construction in historic buildings and eventually sculpture.

Banner Image: Sculptor Simon Verity works with Timothy Shea (PhD ’18). Image Credit: Kyle Wilkinson.

Past Collaborators

Simon Verity

Related Projects

Decoding Artifacts

Funding & Sponsorship

Humanities Writ Large (2013)