The Ancient Greek Potter’s Wheel: Experimental Archaeology and Web Applications for Velocity Analysis

Brandon Neth, Eleni Hasaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The potter’s wheel is central to the understanding of ancient technology, knowledge transfer, and social complexity. With scant evidence of potter’s wheels from antiquity, experimental projects with replica potter’s wheels can help researchers address larger questions on ceramic production. One such set of experiments, performed using the Ancient Greek wheel replica in Tucson modelled on Athenian and Corinthian iconographic evidence, provided useful insight into the qualitative experience of ancient potters. In past experiments, the quantitative analysis of the throwing sessions included data on wheel velocity which had been collected collected over large intervals, comprising entire stages of the throwing process. While this method provides an overview of rotational speed, a continuous velocity graph provides a clearer picture collected data on wheel velocity. To address this, we developed a web application (WheelVis; to aid in the velocity analysis of experimental potter’s wheels. Users provide a recording of the throwing session and while advancing through the recording, they mark points where the wheel has completed rotations. Using the time intervals between these points, the tool reconstructs a graph of the velocity of the wheel throughout the throwing session. This innovative application provides fast, fine-grained velocity information, and helps archaeologists answer questions about the physical properties of their experimental replicas or wheels used in traditional workshops. Future development of the application will include contextual partitions to allow users to split the throw into different stages, enabling further analysis into the throwing process. Moreover, intelligent error detection would notify users when a mark is likely to be made in error and allow them to correct their mistake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-125
Number of pages11
JournalInterdisciplinaria Archaeologica
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Ancient Greece
  • Mediterranean
  • Potter’s wheel
  • Velocity measurement
  • Visualization
  • Web application

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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