Tomb10 - Center for Cyber-Archaeology and Sustainability (CCAS)

Cyber-archaeologists use Structure-from-Motion (SfM) photography to record a 19th-century olive oil press in the ancient Jewish town of Ifrane, Morocco.

Working with Prof. Youssef Bokbot of Morocco’s Institut National des Sciences de l’Archeologie et du Patrimoine in Rabat, and Dr. Rabia al-Mehdaoui of Morocco’s Ministry of Culture, Prof. Tom Levy and Matthew Vincent of the Center for Cyber-Archaeology and Sustainability (CCAS) at UC San Diego are undertaking a preliminary cyber-archaeology project that focuses on the digital conservation of one of the oldest Jewish settlements in Morocco. The town of Ifrane (pronounced ee-frahn) is situated on the southern slopes of the Anti-Atlas mountain range, along the Wadi Ifrane, on the northern edge of the Saharan desert. Ourfrane, as it was known by the Jewish population, is suggested to have been the capital of an ancient Jewish kingdom, founded prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, ca. 586 BCE. The Jewish population remained in Ourfrane and grew with the arrival of co-religionists during the Roman and later Arab periods. After the Inquisition in Spain, Sephardic Jews arrived in this oasis town. Ifrane was an important transit point for the Saharan caravan trade from the 17th through 19th centuries CE. With the rise of sea-borne shipping, the town lost its economic importance. Jews remained in Ifrane until 1958, when they left as a group for the new state of Israel. Today, the old Jewish town is abandoned, a veritable ghost town, but it is made up of well-preserved mudbrick buildings, some with three floors. This impressive town has an extensive Jewish cemetery with many tombstones inscribed in Hebrew. The old synagogue has been restored by the Jewish-Moroccan Cultural Heritage Foundation. The CCAS team used Structure-from-Motion (SfM) photography to record the Ifrane synagogue and a sample of tombstones. As Jewish Ifrane is in danger of erosion and vandalism, the CCAS and Moroccan team would like to carry out a large-scale digital documentation of the town with its hundreds of buildings.