Thursday, July 31, 2008

Outfox Shoutout

I wanted to blog about this as soon as it hit my feedreader, but then there was that proposal to finish. Anyway:

One of the highlights of a decade spent at Carolina was getting to work with Gary Bishop, a professor in the Department of Computer Science. We found ourselves in a collaboration initiated by Jason Morris, a blind Classics graduate student who was deeply interested in ancient geography and for whom Braille maps constituted a ridiculously low-bandwidth, low-resolution disappointment. The idea of producing immersive spatial audio maps took off in the hands of a group of Gary's undergraduate students and, with some seed money from Microsoft Research, this one initiative blossomed into a research and teaching program in assistive technology.

Gary's recently blogged about a cool new project: the Outfox extension for Firefox, which:
allows in-page JavaScript to access local platform services and devices such as text-to-speech synthesis, sound playback and game controllers
It's open source (BSD License), and you can help.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

BAtlas IDs: 4 more sets in Asia Minor, plus Cyprus

README file for Barrington Atlas Identifiers, version published 2007-07-26
Reference URL:

New maps covered in this release: 62, 63, 66, 72, 86
List of all maps presently covered: 22, 35, 36, 37, 38, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 65, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 86

Major classes of change from prior versions are listed below. Consult individual files named like map22-diff.txt for output files differencing from prior version to this version.

* No changes to previously issued files in this release

Friday, July 25, 2008

Feed me, Seymour

It will come as no surprise to the legions of loyal readers here that I'm giving a hearty +1 to David Meadow's call for more antiquity-oriented websites to highlight and alert us to changes by incorporating web feeds.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

BAtlas IDs: 10 more maps

README file for Barrington Atlas Identifiers, version published 2007-07-22
Reference URL:

New maps covered in this release: 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60
List of all maps presently covered: 22, 35, 36, 37, 38, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 65, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80

Major classes of change from prior versions are listed below. Consult individual files named like map22-diff.txt for output files differencing from prior version to this version.

* Still suppressing ID creation for roads; have also added suppression for "coastal change" (so far only seen in Map 53)
* No changes to previously issued files in this release

Fall Institute in Digital Libraries and Humanities 2008

Just noted by way of TEI-L:
Announcing: FIDLH the Fall Institute in Digital Libraries and Humanities

in Atlantic Canada at the University of New Brunswick
Electronic Text Centre at UNB Libraries
September 25th, 26th, and 27th
Cost: $300.00


Thursday September 25th
  • Open Journal Systems (OJS) for electronic journal management
  • Institutional Repositories
Friday September 26th
  • XML for journal articles
  • XML for primary source texts
  • XML for electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs)
Saturday September 27th
  • Data Conversion and Digital Imaging
Also featuring talks by Atlantic Canada researchers including:
  • Richard Cunningham, Acadia University
  • Margaret Conrad, CRC, University of New Brunswick
  • Tony Tremblay, CRC, Saint Thomas University

Delta Hotel
Special Institute rate until by August 25th

Details will follow soon. For more information email Susan Oliver or Lisa Charlong

Prayer Answered: BMCR gets feed!

Thanks to Troels I got a happy surprise this morning. The Bryn Mawr Classical Review has published a web feed of recent reviews. This is great news for dissemination, data sharing and general all-around knowing what's going on. I have already added the feed to the Maia Atlantis aggregator. Now we just need to encourage more people -- including me -- to write and submit more reviews of web publications!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Kostis Kourelis on GIS and Greek history

Kostis Kourelis has recently posted the third entry (Mapping Eleia) in an interesting series on toponyms, archaeology and GIS. There's no distinctive tag, so I'll explicitly link to the two previous posts as well:
He makes some useful observations about the challenges of working with historical GIS, including sourcing spatial data, tracking name changes and appropriations, addressing the shifting locations of particular conceptual places, navigating the influence of politics (both past and present) and handling issues of languages, scripts and transliteration.

Apropos language, script and transliteration there are many things to consider. It's in this domain of course that the simple, flat-file approach to GIS often breaks down, particularly given the problems of change over time and of fragmentary witnesses. For Pleiades -- which was designed with an object-oriented data model -- we record individual name variants, each of which has a language-and-script combination, an "original script" representation (using Unicode) and a transliteration. We can have as many names assigned to a given "place" as we have variants (or theories).

We have our own slightly idiosyncratic transliteration scheme for classical Greek (inherited from the Barrington Atlas; one of the major benefits of Pleiades is the ability to add back the original orthography). We could easily add multiple transliteration schemes (and the corresponding strings generated programmatically from the Unicode Greek). We may well need such a development when we move, as we eventually must, to include historical toponymy in Arabic (where both past and present variation in transliteration schemes renders even recent bibliography a veritable maze).

If you're trying to do this ArcGIS, you'll probably have to set up a relational database or manage a series of joined tables manually.

BAtlas IDs update: IDs for 9 more maps

README file for Barrington Atlas Identifiers, version published 2007-07-21
Reference URL:

New maps covered: 35, 36, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80

Major classes of change from prior versions are listed below. Consult individual files named like map22-diff.txt for output files differencing from prior version to this version.

* No changes from prior versions beyond the addition of data for new maps.

CFP: Space and Place in the Roman World

David Meadows has posted a call for papers that I've missed elsewhere, for an edited volume of papers to be entitled "Experiencing Space and Place in the Roman World." Abstracts by 31 October 2008; final papers in early 2009.

Friday, July 18, 2008

New Aggregator: Ancient Inscriptions (Merope)

I've added a new feed aggregator: Merope Atlantis. This one grabs up feeds from three different Flickr groups in which some very good pictures of inscriptions are regularly being posted:
I hope soon that it will also begin to include images and texts posted elsewhere.

BAtlas ID update: add map 55, more fixes


  • Eliminated duplication/collision problems with alias id values. Although the combination of label + map number + grid square is almost perfectly unique across the entire atlas, the same cannot be said for features not appearing on the maps (like "unlocated" and "false" toponyms), nor for alternative aliases, such as those created for individual constituent names in a multi-name label. Where possible, these collisions are eliminated by adding a one-up numbering scheme (postfixed) on the id, or by omitting non-primary alias alternatives where necessary. The one-up postfix numbers are also reflected in matching captions (in parentheses).
  • Corrected initial two-capitals error in geographic names and associated captions generated when a parenthetical variant indication leads the toponym (e.g., (L)Ibida, which should produce the variants "Libida" and "Ibida", not "LIbida" and "Ibida".
  • Captions for "group" features now read like "aqueduct group" instead of "aqueduct-group".
  • Suppress serialization of a few redundant captions

Open Antiquist

Hooray for the organizers and members of Antiquist, who today have implemented their decision to convert the archives of their discussion list (which goes back to September 2006) from private to public! Antiquist describes itself as:
An online community of people working with computing in the heritage sector.

Antiquist is primarily a communication network - a way for us to talk, argue, experiment, share ideas, and solve common problems.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

BAtlas ID update: add map 37, various fixes

Latest XML in

I've added a read-me file, as well as text files containing diffs between previous and current versions of the individual xml files. The readme file says:
  • altered citations so that location descriptions for unnamed features are enclosed in parentheses
  • fixed bug in processing of fragmentary, unreconstructable geognames so that lacunae are signaled with parentheses around ellipsis (...) instead of ellipsis alone; also, mark them correctly as completeness="non-reconstructable" instead of type="variant"
  • remove inverted quotes from geogname variants and instead mark them as accuracy="inaccurate"
  • handle group notation in location description for unnamed features like aqueducts and villas so that, e.g., Map-by-Map directory entry in Aqueducts for map 22 C5 with location description "Nicopolis ad Istrum (2)" becomes "aqueduct-group-nicopolis-ad-istrum-22-c5" instead of "aqueduct-nicopolis-ad-istrum-2-22-c5"; this also adds a new element child of indicating the number of features associated with the group.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

BAtlas ID update: add map 73, revise captions for rivers, islands and island groups

I have just updated the XML files providing Barrington Atlas IDs and associated information (background). The following additions and changes were made
  • IDs added for Map 73 (Ammon)
  • All files refreshed so that alternative captions for rivers, islands and island groups with multiple names all carry the appropriate formulaic postfix expression (fl., Ins. Inss.); no alias IDs have been changed; no geogname elements have been changed; no features have been added or removed
Copies of the prior versions are available for reference in an appropriately-dated subdirectory, e.g.:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Barrington Atlas IDs

Update: follow the batlasids tag trail for follow-ups.

Back in February, I blogged about clean URLs and feed aggregation. In March, we learned about the ORE specification for mapping resource aggregations in Atom XML, just as we were gearing up to start work on the Concordia project, with support from the US National Endowment for the Humanities and the UK Joint Information Services Committee.

Our first workshop was held in May. One of the major outcomes was a to-do for me: provide a set of stable identifiers for every citable geographic feature in the Barrington Atlas so collaborators could start publishing resource maps and building interoperation services right away, without waiting for the full build-out of Pleiades content (which will take some time).

The first fruits can be downloaded at: . All content under that URL is licensed cc-by. Back versions are in dated subdirectories.

There you'll find XML files for 3 of the Atlas maps (22, 38 and 65). There's only one feature class for which we don't provide IDs: roads. More on why not another time. I'll be adding files for more of the maps as quickly as I can, beginning with Egypt and the north African coast west from the Nile delta to Tripolitania (the Concordia "study area"). Our aim is full coverage for the Atlas within the next few months.

What do you get in the files?

IDs (aka aliases) for every citable geographic feature in the Barrington Atlas. For example:
  • BAtlas 65 G2 Ouasada = ouasada-65-g2
If you combine one of these aliases with the "uribase" also listed in the file ( you get a Uniform Resource Identifier for that feature (this should answer Sebastian Heath's question).

For features with multiple names, we provide multiple aliases to facilitate ease of use for our collaborators. For example, for BAtlas 65 A2 Aphrodisias/Ninoe, any of the following aliases are valid:
  • aphrodisias-ninoe-65-a2
  • aphrodisias-65-a2
  • ninoe-65-a2
Features labeled in the Atlas with only a number are also handled. For example, BAtlas 38 C1 no. 9 is glossed in the Map-by-Map Directory with the location description (modern names): "Siret el-Giamel/Gasrin di Beida". So, we produce the following aliases, all valid:
  • (9)-38-c1
  • (9)-siret-el-giamel-gasrin-di-beida-38-c1
  • (9)-siret-el-giamel-38-c1
  • (9)-gasrin-di-beida-38-c1
Most unlabeled historical/cultural features also get identifiers. For example:
  • Unnamed aqueduct at Laodicea ad Lycum in BAtlas 65 B2 = aqueduct-laodicea-ad-lycum-65-b2
  • Unnamed bridge at Valerian in BAtlas 22 B5 = bridge-valeriana-22-b5
Unlocated toponyms and false names (appearing only in the Map-by-Map Directory) get treated like this:
  • BAtlas 22 unlocated Acrae = acrae-22-unlocated
  • BAtlas 38 unlocated Ampelos/Ampelontes? = ampelos-ampelontes-38-unlocated = ampelos-38-unlocated = ampelontes-38-unlocated
  • BAtlas 65 false name ‘Itoana’ = itoana-65-false
The XML files also provide associated lists of geographic names, formatted BAtlas citations and other information useful for searching, indexing and correlating these entries with your own existing datasets. What you don't get is coordinates. That's what the Pleiades legacy data conversion work is for, and it's a slower and more expensive process.

Read on to find out how you can start using these identifiers now, and get links to the corresponding Pleiades data automatically as it comes on line over time.

Why do we need these identifiers?

Separate digital projects would like to be able to refer unambiguously to any ancient Greek or Roman geographic feature using a consistent, machine-actionable scheme. The Barrington Atlas is a stable, published resource that can provide this basis if we construct the corresponding IDs.

Even without coordinates, other projects can begin to interoperate with each other immediately, as long as they have a common scheme of identifiers. After using BAtlas URIs to normalize, control or annotate their geographic description, they can publish services or crosswalks that provide links for the relationships within and between their datasets. For example, for each record in a database of coins you might like links to all the other coins minted by the same city, or to digital versions (in other databases) of papyrus documents and inscriptions found at that site.

Moreover, we would like other projects to start using a consistent identifier scheme now, so that as Pleiades adds content we can build more interoperation around it (e.g., dynamic mapping, coordinate lookup, proximity search across multiple collections). To that end, Pleiades will provide redirects (303 see other) from Barrington Atlas URIs (following the scheme described here) as follows:
  • If a corresponding entry exists in Pleiades, the web browser will be redirected to that Pleiades page automatically
  • If there is not yet a corresponding entry in Pleiades, the web browser will be redirected to an HTML page providing a full human-readable citation of the Atlas, as well as information about this service
So, for example:
  • will re-direct to
  • will re-direct to until there is a corresponding Pleiades record
The HTML landing pages for non-Pleiades redirects are not in place yet, but we're working on it. We'll post again when that's working.

Why URIs for a discretely citable feature in a real-world, printed atlas?

I'll let Bizer, Cyganiak and Heath explain the naming of resources with URI references. In the parlance of "Linked Data on the Web," Barrington Atlas features are "non-information resources"; that is, they are non-digital/real-world discrete entities about which web authors and services may want to make assertions or around which to perform operations. What we are doing is creating a stable system for identifying and citing these resources so that those assertions and operations can be automated using standards-compliant web mechanisms and applications. The HTML pages to which web browsers will be automatically redirected constitute "information resources" that describe the "non-information resources" identified by the original URIs.


If I get a comment box full of requests for a blow-by-blow description of the algorithm, I'll post something on that. If you're really curious and energetic, have a look at the code. It's intended mostly for short-term, internal use, so it's not marvelously documented. Yes, it's a hack.

One of the big headaches was deciding how to decompose the complex labels into simple, clean ASCII strings that can be legal URL components. Sean blogged about that, and wrote some code to do it, shortly after the workshop.

Credit where credit is due

Sean and I had a lot of help from the workshop participants (Ben Armintor, Gabriel Bodard, Hugh Cayless, Sebastian Heath, Tim Libert, Sebastian Rahtz and Charlotte Roueché) in sorting out what to do here. Older, substantive conversations that informed this process (with these folks and others; notably Rob Chavez, Greg Crane, Ruth Mostern, Dan Pett, Ross Scaife†, Patrick Sims-Williams, Linda Smith and Neel Smith) go back as far as 2000, shortly after the Atlas was published.

Many thanks to all!

in the Wild

Sebastian Rahtz has already mocked up an example service for the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. It takes a BAtlas alias and returns you all the name records in their system that are associated with the corresponding place. So, for example:
This is just one of several services that LGPN is developing. See the LGPN web services page, as well as the LGPN presentation to the Digital Classicist Seminar in London last month.

Sebastian Heath, for some time, has been incorporating Pleiades identifiers into the database records of the American Numismatic Society. He has blogged about that work in the context of Concordia.

Do you have an application? Let me know!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

EpiDoc in Bologna

Last week I had the opportunity to give a seminar on EpiDoc as a guest of Prof. Carla Salvaterra and the Department of Ancient History at the University of Bologna. We titled the session "Digital Publishing with EpiDoc: Epigraphy, Papyrology, Interoperability."

I had a delightful time, and greatly appreciated extended discussion with the faculty and students who participated.

For what they're worth, I've posted my slides: