Archaeological drafting is the science/art of recording historical data in technical drawings.
A few of the basic types of drawings needed are maps showing sites where archaeological sites are, maps showing locations of archaeological finds in situ and drawings of the artifacts themselves.


Archaeology uses the metric system and all drawings should be done in metric. Drawings are done "to scale". The scale ratio at which a drawing is drawn must be given on the drawing as follows:

For example, if you had a drawing that was 1:1 (pronounced one to one) the drawing would be the same size as the artifact, or every millimeter is drawn as a millimeter.

If you had a drawing that was 1:2 the drawing would be half the size of the artifact, meaning that every millimeter was drawn as 2 millimeters.

If you had a drawing that was 2:1 the drawing would be twice as large as the artifact, meaning that every 2 millimeters were drawn as 1 millimeter.

See how that works? The first number is the size of the drawing, the second is the size of the artifact in reality.

A bar scale is drawn next to the object showing the scale ratio in addition to being called out. Here is an example of a 3 centimeter bar scale next to some artifacts:
Bar scale

Archaeological drafting does not use detailed dimensions as do the fields of mechanical and architectural drafting. Simply a technically accurate drawing, easily understood and interpreted with a bar scale on the drawing is standard. Please see samples at the bottom of this page.

Measuring artifacts

Archaeology uses the science of “reverse engineering” or, creating a technical drawing from the physical object. Artifacts are measured using calipers. Calipers used are generally plastic which will not scratch the artifacts. These can be purchased at most major hardware stores or ordered and cost about $25. Accuracy is the key to proper recording of historical data and great care must be taken to assure that accurate measurements are taken of artifacts. Tape your paper to the drafting board or table top and use a T-square. (A T-square is like a yard stick with a straight edge attached to the top of it.)

Manual drafting vs. computer aided drafting

Archaeology is the only field of which I, personally, am aware of that does not use computer aided drafting exclusively. I found that there is good reason for this. I discovered, when I attempted to draw my first artifact, that hand made objects do not translate well into computer drawn images. There is a very human element to them which just does not carry over. The science of archaeological drafting is a unique blend of mathematics, science and art. It requires a human touch unlike other fields of drafting.

Mapping, however can be accomplished with speed and ease using AutoCAD or other computer aided drafting programs. The University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute is currently in the process of using AutoCAD to create 3 dimensional drawings showing tombs with the artifacts in situ. Kent Weeks website has several good 3D models of tomb KV5 at KV5 as well as a fantastic QTVR fly-through of the tomb. You can also see bar scales used in the photographs of KV5.


Section drawings or cross section drawings are drawings that show the inside of an object.

Soil elevation sections show layers of silt and soil and the levels at which artifacts were found.

Ceramic vessels are drawn in “half section”. This means that a centerline is drawn down the middle of the artifact with the interior of the artifact shown on the left side of the center line and the exterior of the artifact shown on the right side of the centerline. Here are some examples: Ceramics drawing samples Note, however, that these do not call out the scale at which they were drawn or the bar scale.


Here are some excellent examples of archaeological drafting done by Sarah Stoutamire. Note the shading technique she uses, this is called “stippeling” which is shading using dots. A widely used technique in the field.
Ceramic shards
Flint flake

Please note: My area of expertise is in the fields of mechanical and architectural drafting., I am just venturing into archaeological drafting and would find your comments and/or corrections extremely helpfull!!