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Benthos: Digital Atlas of Ancient Waters beta version

February 15, 2013 in Introduction

Introducing Benthos

AWMC is pleased to introduce a beta version of Benthos: Digital Atlas of Ancient Waters; at present this project is in its most preliminary changes, but as always AWMC welcomes feedback from the community.


Benthos is a new initiative of the Ancient World Mapping Center that aims to catalog and map the waters of the ancient Mediterranean basin. As conceived, the project will incorporate physical landscape data for the ocean floor, coastlines, ports, as well as data for important rivers, estuaries, and coastal lagoons. It is also conceptually possible to incorporate digital models for both ocean current and prevailing wind patterns (e.g. the U.S. Wind map). In terms of cultural and historical information, Benthos aims to employ accurate historical geography (derived from the Barrington Atlas and the Pleiades Project) to identify ports and other relevant sites, as well as to seek out archaeological information for the location of ancient shipwrecks. Mapping these wrecks, and their cargoes, relates to an underlying interest in patterns of travel and communication in the ancient world. Currently the project is in a preliminary state, with a functional beta version of the application based off of Antiquity À-la-carte.


At present the Benthos data set includes shipwreck and cargo data derived from A. J Parker (1992) Ancient shipwrecks of the Mediterranean & the Roman provinces. and a set of ancient port data curated by Arthur De Graauw. Parker’s coordinates for wreck sites have been incorporated here, along with the published inventories of ships’ cargo. In order to demonstrate the potential of network mapping, for some mainstream Roman pottery classes we have added place identifiers (employing Pleiades id numbers) for likely cargo sources. The correlation of these three spheres – site of shipwreck, location of ports, and network mapping of cargo origins has the potential to reveal patterns that will prove to be of great interest for studies of both the Mediterranean economy and patterns of travel and transportation. The Benthos platform is designed in such a way as to be able to incorporate other cognate data sets; the more precise data that can be mounted in the application, the more revelatory the results could prove to be. In addition, the Benthos project is deigned from the beginning to interface with other ancient world linked data projects (e.g. PleiadesPelagios, and ORBIS) and will be integrated into the AWMC API to facilitate easy data exchange. The project is fully open source and is released completely free of charge for any non-commercial use under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0).



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