Monday, January 21, 2008

Ancient Gazetteer/Geodata Builders, Unite!

I keep running into more and more examples of people or projects building interesting and useful datasets/gazetteers for the ancient world. Maybe we should be talking to each other in a more regular and organized fashion?

There are, of course, the big digital gazetteers (compiled from multiple sources) that incorporate some ancient sites (e.g., the open-access Alexandria Digital Library Gazetteer and GeoNames and the proprietary Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names). But there are also established academic/historical projects like the China Historical GIS (unfortunately locked away from the geoweb by its license). Some other academic projects focus on the capture of metadata (including spatial information) about archaeological surveys, digs, bibliography and more (for example, Fasti Online, the Mediterranean Archaeological GIS, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the TAY Project: Archaeological Settlements of Turkey, and some of the vast array of projects cataloged by the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative over the last decade).

Then there are the folks building teaching and reference datasets (e.g., Ross Scaife's Bronze Age Crete KML for Google Earth), as well as those developing regional gazetteers for academic purposes (I just noticed Bill Caraher's mention of his plans to co-author with David Pettegrew a gazeteer of the Eastern Corinthia -- hint: search in page for "gazetteer").

If I were going to try to gather some information about projects creating academic historical "gazetteers" or "geographic datasets" (focused on "ancient" times), what questions should I be asking? Should your project be listed?

If you have thoughts on this, please post a comment or a blog post linking back to this one.


Gabriel Bodard said...

I was wondering the other day... how does RAGE fit into all this stuff now?

Tom Elliott said...

The Register of Ancient Geographic Entities, originally envisioned by Neel Smith and Rob Chavez (and subsequently experimented on by some Stoa folks at the University of Kentucky) was intended to provide for cross-project ID resolution in the context of geographic names and the spaces/places they represent(ed). It's my understanding that the most current avatar of RAGE is a CHS Registry format document containing metadata about the names and features adduced by Ptolemy. Maybe Neel can provide some more specific observations.

Stuart Eve said...

Hey Tom, I'm part of the team working on FASTI Online and we are definately interested in attempting to get all of this data together. It would of course be the ultimate dream to actually allow the datasets themselves to talk to each other - but thats probably still quite a long way off.

With that in mind however it would be great to host a list of sites that provide gazeteers for the ancient world with a bit of metadata about how data consumers might be able to use them.

Some of the things that would be useful to know:

"what thesauri/wordlists are you using?"
"what (if any) formats can your data be exported in?"
"what geographic coordinate system are you using?"

Oh yeah and we would love to be on the list!!