Pasts Imperfect (11.11.21)

Ancient Maps, Digital Humanities, and More

This week, Sarah E. Bond discusses digital mapping and the use of GIS for historical study. Next, we look at new discoveries at Pompeii, an open access book on mapping in ancient China, upcoming lectures, and new ancient world journal issues from Colin McCaffrey.

The celebration for ancient historian Richard Talbert’s retirement is this week and most of his former students cannot make it to Chapel Hill in person. And so the newsletter’s theme, historical GIS, is an homage to Talbert’s epic work in editing the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, and his exploration of the use and transmission of the Tabula Peutingeriana. The lasting impact of the creation of the Ancient World Mapping Center at UNC-Chapel Hill and his mentorship of hundreds of students over his career will not be forgotten. This short introduction to spatial humanities and the ancient world is dedicated to a PhD advisor and geographer who remains unparalleled.

There is no room for selfish or solitary classicists, archaeologists, art historians, or ancient historians within digital humanities (DH). Mapping and virtually every other successful digital project focused on the ancient world is predicated on faith in sharing knowledge, citations, and data through a set of practices called “Linked Open Data.” Rather than remaking the wheel for every digital project, we support each other through peer-reviewed, freely open spatial and textual data, as well as code. One of the most successful mapping projects for the ancient world, Stanford’s ORBIS (often pitched to the public as a “Google Maps” of the ancient Mediterranean), worked in tandem with the Pleiades Project (a gazetteer which migrated the Barrington Atlas online and made its data freely available), to inform its sensational model for ancient trade and travel. Additionally, the thousands of coins in the Nomisma database and the epigraphic materials in Trismegistos use Pleiades geodata to locate their material culture.

Perhaps the most successful consortium developing digital mapping methods for pedagogy and research is the Pelagios Network. A newly published section in the International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing looks at how Pelagios connects histories of place in the premodern world. From tools such as Recogito (which allows users to upload texts, geotag them, and then visualize them on a map) to their digital partnerships with projects such as the Ottoman Gazetteer and the new Digging into Early Colonial Mexico (DECM), Pelagios models the generosity we aspire to in DH. Other projects, such as ToposText, also allow the spatial visualization of ancient texts, mediating the reading of texts through a geographic lens. For Roman roads, Vici allows users to traverse the Roman road system and much more.

Ancient mapping projects such as the al-Ṯurayyā Project (a geospatial model of the early Islamic world) and the ADOPIA: Atlas Digital Onomastique de la Peninsule Ibérique Antique are breaking away from a focus on Athens and Rome as epicenters. However, there are fantastic resources for teaching these two cities as well. There is the newly launched Mapping Ancient Athens project from Dipylon: The Society for the Study of Ancient Topography and for Rome, the relaunch of the Interactive Nolli Map within the MappingRome consortium, which allows endless explorations of Roma from antiquity to the early modern period. If Pompeii is your bag, you can’t get better than Eric Poehler’s Pompeii Bibliography and Mapping Project and the geolocation of graffiti within The Ancient Graffiti Project. For an epic list of digital projects, including a number of HGIS-focused ones, see The Digital Classicist Wiki.

Digital Mapping Tools, Resources, and Repositories

The AWMC’s Antiquity À-la-carte is a web-based GIS interface and interactive digital atlas that allows you to make your own maps of the ancient Mediterranean for publication. They also have ready-made maps for teaching, which can be found here.

David Rumsey Historical Map Collection allows you to peruse thousands of maps and then to geo-reference them.

Stanford’s Forma Urbis Romae project has all 1,186 surviving fragments of the Severan Marble Plan online.

Territori: il portale italiano dei catasti e della cartografia storica is a portal for online maps and cartographic archives focused on Italy.

Nota Bene: Harvard WorldMap has migrated to ArcGIS Online.

Seen on the Web

On November 6, 2021, it was announced that quarters for enslaved persons have been discovered at the villa NW of Pompeii called Civita Giuliana. Although we should be careful about identifying enslaved persons from room position and material culture alone, The Art Newspaper reports on the significant find:

The slaves' living quarters contain three wooden beds—two for adults, the other for a child—a chamber pot, a wooden chest filled with metal and fabric items and a chariot shaft which may have been prepared and maintained by the slave family who carried out domestic chores in the villa.

At Oxford University Press, a new book edited by Jaś Elsner, Landscape and Space: Comparative Perspectives from Chinese, Mesoamerican, Ancient Greek, and Roman Art takes a global perspective on ancient art in order to compare depictions of landscapes.

Martin Worthington, Al-Maktoum Associate Professor in Middle Eastern Studies at Trinity College, specializes in the languages and civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia and provided the Babylonian translations for the new Eternals movie from Marvel. He notes the import of working with filmmakers who wish to use ancient languages:

It was thrilling to create these translations and send them out into the ether for an actor to speak them aloud, imbue them with gestures, and bring them to life. Film is such a powerful medium, which can summon a past full of moving, breathing and talking people. Eternals will raise awareness of Ancient Mesopotamia and its fascinating cultures, and I hope people will go on to explore them further.

Over at Harvard Divinity, Annette Yoshiko Reed is interviewed on “The Art of the Forgotten.” She has announced she will return to Harvard Divinity in July of 2022. The interview discusses her love of art history and how she came to biblical studies.

She works in Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and ancient Ethiopic, in addition to speaking English and Japanese. In talking about language, Reed connects her family’s background and her affinity for biblical stories. “My great-grandmother was a Shinto priestess in Japan. She spoke to foxes—which, my mother explains, is why animals are drawn to me. So, we have this real tradition in my Japanese-American family, and I was raised with very little knowledge of Western religions.”

A new open access book from Springer, The Studies of Heaven and Earth in Ancient China, edited by Xiaoyuan Jiang, has a wealth of illustrations and “offers a comprehensive chronological re-construction of astronomy and geosciences in ancient China.” My favorite chapter, written by Qianjin Wang, is on the ancient history of surveying in China.

Lectures and Conferences

On November 16, 2021 at 12 ET (7 pm in Greece), Brad Hostetler is giving a lecture for the Byzantine Dialogues from the Gennadius Library speaker series. It is titled “ ‘By this conquer’: Relics as Weapons in Byzantium.” Register here.

Over at #EOTalks, Juliana Bastos Marques, Amy L. Daniels, Mekhola Gomes, and Usama Ali Gad will discuss “Classics beyond the Euro-American Gaze” on November 12, 10-11:30am EST. You can RSVP for the panel here.

New Online Journal Issues curated by @YaleClassicsLib
Vol. 66, No. 4 (2021) NB: “Everything in Nature is in Intellect: Forms and Natural Teleology in Ennead 6.2.21 (and elsewhere)” by Christopher Isaac Noble
Synthesis Vol. 28, No.1 (2021) Dossier: Ritualidad en Eurípides #openaccess
Digital Scholarship in the Humanities Vol. 36, Suppl. 2 ( October 2021) ‘Digital Humanities 2019: Complexities’
The Cambridge Classical Journal Vol. 67 (December 2021) NB: “"Less Care, More Stress: A Rhythmic Poem from the Roman Error” by Tim Whitmarsh
CIPEG Journal: Ancient Egyptian & Sudanese Collections and Museums No. 5 (2021) Offerings to Maat. Essays in Honour of Emily Teeter #openaccess
thersites: Journal for Transcultural Presences & Diachronic Identities from Antiquity to Date Vol. 13 (2021) Antiquipop – Chefs d’œuvres revisités (ed. F. Bièvre-Perrin) #openaccess
Mnemosyne Vol. 74, No. 6 (2021)
Rhetorica Vol. 39, No. 4 (Autumn 2021) NB: “Embodying Kairos in Philostratus' Lives of the Sophists” by Artemis Brod
Traditio Vol. 76 (2021)
Digital Scholarship in the Humanities Vol. 36, No. 4 (December 2021) NB: “Eclectic mimēsis in Imperial Greek oratory: Topological metrics for syntactical quantification using wavelets” by Eleni Bozia
Byzantion Nea Hellás Revista Anual de estudios griegos, bizantinos y neohelénico No. 40 (2021) NB: “El placer de las cosasby Valentina Bulo #openaccess
Archäologischer Anzeiger 2020 2. Halbband NB: “Una nuova testa di Ares dal Campo Marzio” by Fedora Filippi #openaccess


The Public Books section "Antiquities" continues to take pitches for articles to be published in early 2022. You can also pitch to our “Pasts Imperfect” column at the LA Review of Books using this form. Thanks for reading!

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