University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Sea++: Connecting the Ancient World with Pelagios Project
Leif Isaksen, Elton Barker, Rainer Simon

Last modified: 2011-12-16


On-line resources that reference ancient places are multiplying rapidly, bringing huge potential for the researcher provided that they can be found; but users currently have no way of easily navigating between them or comparing their contents. The Pelagios consortium, a growing international collective of ancient world projects,[1] addresses the problems of discovery and reuse with the twin aims of helping digital humanists to make their data more discoverable, and of empowering real-world users (scholars and the general public) to find information about particular ancient places and visualize it in meaningful ways. While the project focuses on the ancient world, the methodology and tools developed will be of interest to anyone working with data containing references to geo-entities. The Pelagios collaboration intentionally includes partners maintaining a wide range of different document types including, texts, maps and databases. In doing so we take some of the first steps towards building a Geospatial Semantic Web for the Humanities.[2]


In this paper we discuss two major elements of the recently completed first phase of Pelagios (a second phase, which has recently been granted funding, will run from November 2011 until July 2012). First, we address the method by which the partners prepare their data so that it can be linked together in an open and transparent manner. Second, we consider the various ways in which the results can be visualized, paying particular attention to the tools and technologies used and the problems encountered. This will include a demonstration of a visualization service that we believe demonstrates the value of lightweight Linked Open Data approaches to addressing problems of discoverability, interconnectivity and reusability of online resources. We will follow this discussion with a brief reflection on the process by which the Pelagios community and services have developed, especially the digital services that have made the coordination of such an international initiative possible. We will conclude by outlining some of the challenges that remain to embedding data and practice in an ancient world online infrastructure, as we develop a comprehensive ‘toolkit’ that will make it easier for anyone to add their data to the Pelagios multiverse.[3] Throughout the paper we will discuss real-world practical concerns as well as engage in deeper speculation about the significance of this type of approach for escaping the ‘siloing’ mentality that inhibits many other data integration initiatives.

[1] Pelagios includes: Arachne,; CLAROS,; Fasti Online,; GAP,; Nomisma,; Open Context,; Perseus,; Pleiades,; Ptolemy Machine,, SPQR,; Ure museum,

[2] Harris, T. M., Rouse, L. J. and Bergeron, S. (2010): ‘The Geospatial Semantic Web, Pareto GIS, and the Humanities’. In Bodenhamer, D. J., Corrigan, J. & Harris, T. M., (eds.), The Spatial Humanities: GIS and the Future of Scholarship. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

[3]A vision that coincides well with Elliott’s discussion of the future of Classical scholarship: Elliott, T. (2009): ‘Digital Geography and Classics’. DHQ Volume 3 Number 1.



Linked Open Data; Ancient World; Classics; Discovery; Visualization