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Pelagios: Mapping the culture of Antiquity online

The Madaba Map
The Madaba Map

A project which will make it easier to discover and map online information about ancient places begins this month.

Leif Isaksen, a member of the ECS Intelligence, Agents, Multimedia research group, who is about to commence a Research Fellowship with the Archaeological Computing Research Group, University of Southampton, is leading a global consortium, together with Elton Barker of The Open University, to develop a method of integrating data from existing ancient world resources.

He is Co-Investigator on the JISC-funded Pelagios (PELAGIOS: Enable Linked Ancient Geodata In Open Systems) Project which aims to create a common format for referencing ancient locations in online resources over the next nine months.

"The inspiration for this project came largely from our on-going Google Ancient Places (GAP) project which aims to identify classical locations in Google Books and other digital libraries," said Mr Isaksen. "Pelagios will take this a step further by creating a generalised and machine-readable format for referring to ancient places in any Web document whether it’s a text, map or even database."

The project partners are using the Pleiades online gazetteer of over 30,000 ancient locations and will use Linked Open Data principles to connect textual, visual and tabular documents that reference the Ancient World. They will also develop mapping and discovery tools to make it easy for researchers, developers and the general public to make use of the data.

"Although we are developing this standardized method for Antiquity, once it exists, it can also be used just as easily for references to modern place names as well," said Mr. Isaksen.

David Flanders, programme manager at JISC, said: "The Pelagios Project offers the exciting potential to make historical texts more real to students and researchers than ever before: imagine being able generate maps of the stories by Herodotus or even know if the journeys spoken about by Euripides and Sophocles were similar in nature. By adding geospatial data to these classical texts new insights will be added, making data otherwise hidden in the texts explicit and real at a new level of understanding."

The consortium is keen to involve digital librarians and other online resource curators involved in Ancient World research and will host a workshop in March to brief them further. The project will also host an ongoing blog at: http://pelagios-project.blogspot.com/

Consortium project partners are:

Archaeological Computing Research Group (ACRG), University of Southampton

Faculty of Arts & LUCERO, The Open University

Pleiades, New York University

Perseus, Tufts University

Arachne, University of Cologne

Supporting Productive Queries for Research (SPQR),

King’s College, London

Digital Memory Engineering (DME), Austrian Institute of

Technology

Image: The Madaba Map (6th C. D) gives an indication of the importance of placenames in ancient cartography. (image source: Wikipedia. (c) Jean Housen).


Posted by Joyce Lewis on 04 Feb 2011.