Friday 15 November 2013

The nesting of EAGLE within Pelagios

In our previous post we introduced what EAGLE is and what it hopes to achieve. In this post we outline briefly some particularities with our data structure that demonstrate what we are bringing to Pelagios.

Most fundamentally we use the term ‘place’ as it is defined by Trismegistos Geo: this means taking ‘place’ in its broadest sense, to refer not only to towns and villages, but also to regions, districts and all kinds of micro-toponyms. All toponyms referring to a single place are listed on their individual cards, each of which has a unique TM Geo_ID number. The number itself contains no information, but creates a numerical order. If two places are identified and their cards joined, the Geo_ID number of the old card is preserved but henceforward contains only a reference to the new card.

For example, Trismegistos Geo lists two kinds of places: ancient places attested in both literary and documentary sources, and modern places insofar an ancient document has been found there. Sometimes in fact no information about the ancient toponym is available and the findspot of an ancient text has to be recorded with its modern findspot. With regard to ancient places, it is not always clear what is a real toponym and what is a common noun that refers to a geographical item (also called appellatives in linguistic studies). In this matter, Trismegistos follows the practical rule that any toponym listed in the geographical index of a publication is also listed in the geographical database. Trismegistos Geo is also adding to PLEIADES id for some location, in order to facilitate the recognition of geographical entries in other databases. In addition, the cards store all names and variants; among them a standard name is chosen both for the ancient and the modern name. Moreover, every place is ascribed to a modern country, an ancient region and a Roman provincia, each item in a separate field. The standard name for the modern country is the one used in English, and the correspondences between each modern country or region and the ancient provinces are those in use at the Epigraphic Database Heidelberg.

Aligning the inscriptions in Trismegistos will mean that the “annotated thing” not only will represent the most up-to-date unique entry for that text but also will in turn link to multiple independent editions of the same text where they exist and indeed to all quality curated editions from the EAGLE BPN. In this way we will help minimize the possibility of duplicating records for the same place.

In the long term, we look forward to aligning both Trismegistos and Pleiades to Wikidata, in order to bring together the richness of both of these gazetteers. As we see it, establishing a network of gazetteers—one of the aims of Pelagios 3—is a highly valuable step towards harmonizing practice and making content reusable and extendable. We look forward to working with the Pelagios team to take linked ancient world data one step further in terms of data networking and interoperability, and together help facilitate research in all disciplines of the field, digital or otherwise.  

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