Hestia 2013

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Videos of talks

HESTIA2: Exploring spatial networks through ancient sources

University of Southampton 18th July 2013
Organisers: Elton Barker, Stefan Bouzarovski, Leif Isaksen and Tom Brughmans
In collaboration with The Connected Past

A one-day seminar on spatial network analysis in classical studies, archaeology and cultural heritage.

Spatial relationships appear throughout our sources about the past: from the ancient roads that connect cities, or ancient authors mentioning political alliances between places, to the stratigraphic contexts archaeologists deal with in their fieldwork. However, as datasets about the past become increasingly large, spatial relationships become ever more difficult to disentangle. Network visualization and analysis allow us to address such spatial relationships explicitly and directly. This seminar aims to explore the potential of these innovative techniques for research in the higher education, public and cultural heritage sectors.

The seminar is part of Hestia2, a public engagement project aimed at introducing a series of conceptual and practical innovations to the spatial reading and visualisation of texts. Following on from the AHRC-funded initiative ‘Network, Relation, Flow: Imaginations of Space in Herodotus’s Histories’ (Hestia), Hestia2 represents a deliberate shift from experimenting with geospatial analysis of a single text to making Hestia’s outcomes available to new audiences and widely applicable to other texts through a seminar series, online platform, blog and learning materials with the purpose of fostering knowledge exchange between researchers and non-academics, and generating public interest and engagement in this field.


Registration for this event has now closed. Details of how to follow the event via live-stream will appear here soon.


11:00 Registration and coffee
11:30 HESTIA-team

  • Welcome and introduction to HESTIA and HESTIA2

12:00 Maximilian Schich (The University of Texas at Dallas)

12:25 Alex Godden (Hampshire County Council)

12:50 John Goodwin (Ordnance Survey)

13:15 Discussion
13:35 Tea and coffee break
13:55 Terhi Nurmikko (University of Southampton)

14:20 Kate Byrne (University of Edinburgh)

14:45 Giorgio Uboldi (Politecnico di Milano)

15:10 Discussion
15:35 Tea and coffee break
16:00 Keith May (English Heritage)

16:25 Paul Cripps (University of South Wales)


Kate Byrne

University of Edinburgh

Geoparsing and spatial network analysis in the GAP projects

This talk will describe aspects of two Google-funded projects on spatial grounding and analysis in classical and general texts. The first was Google Ancient Places (GAP), from which evolved the Geographic Annotation Platform (GAP2). These projects themselves built on foundations laid by the first Hestia project.

Our focus is on spatial analysis of textual resources, particularly classical texts. Before any examination of spatial relationships can be done, the first problem is to identify the places mentioned in the text, so the talk will explain how the Edinburgh Geoparser was adapted for this task. The process of geoparsing has two steps: firstly find placename mentions, and secondly attempt to locate them so they can be plotted on a map.

The second part of the talk will discuss our approach to determining relationships between the places mentioned, based on textual context. Clear visual presentation of the results is a major factor in how useful they are to students and researchers, so the team designed and built the GapVis web interface. This will be used to illustrate some of the issues in network visualisation.

Paul Cripps

University of South Wales

GeoSemantic Technologies for Archaeological Resources

The semantics of heritage data is a growing area of interest with ontologies such as the CIDOC-CRM providing semantic frameworks and exemplary projects such as STAR and STELLAR demonstrating what can be done using semantic technologies applied to archaeological resources. In the world of the Semantic Web, advances regarding geosemantics have emerged to extend research more fully into the spatio-temporal domain, for example extending the SPARQL standard to produce GeoSPARQL. Importantly, the use of semantic technologies, particularly the structure of RDF, aligns with graph and network based approaches, providing a rich fusion of techniques for geospatial analysis of heritage data expressed in such a manner.

This paper will give an overview of the ongoing G-STAR research project (GeoSemantic Technologies for Archaeological Resources) with reference to broader sectoral links particularly to commercial archaeology.

Specifically, focus will be applied to approaches regarding the integration of spatial data into the heritage Global Graph and the relationship between Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) and Linked Data, moving beyond notions of ‘location’ as simple nodes, placenames and coordinates towards fuller support for complex geometries and advanced spatial reasoning.

Finally, the potential impacts of such research will be discussed with particular reference to the current practice of commercial archaeology, access to and publishing of (legacy, big) data, and leveraging network models to better understand and manage change within archaeological information systems.

Alex Godden

Economy, Transport and Environment Department

Hampshire County Council

Historic Environment Records: New ways of looking for the past

Historic Environment Records (HERs) are recognised as being unique repositories of information relating to sites, finds, buildings and landscapes that illustrate human activity from -500,000 BC to the present day. In digital format, this data can be linked into Geographic Information Systems and online platforms to enable spatial analysis and greater sharing opportunities.

As such, the contents of HERs complement and enrich museum collections and archives; as well as underpin historic environment planning decisions and land management advice, contribute to research projects, inform academics and enhance public knowledge on a local and national level. To support this, HERs need to both identify and target new audiences, create a forum for communities to feed local knowledge back in, as well as work in partnership with other heritage organisations in the public, private and academic sector.

This paper will highlight both the importance and potential of HERs, using the work of the Hampshire County Council Historic Environment team as an example. It will also suggest directions and developments that can ensure that HERs remain a critical hub informing heritage work for the future.

John Goodwin

Ordnance Survey

Ordnance Survey and Linked Data

In April 2010 a number of Ordnance Survey’s products were offered as opendata. A number of the key datasets were offered as linked data in addition to the more traditional GIS formats. Support for spatial indexing and spatial querying in linked data technologies was very immature in 2010, so the decision was made to explicitly encode the spatial relationships between geographic regions. This talk describes building an ontology to describe these spatial relations, attempts to capture their semantics using the Web Ontology Language and goes on to consider the current GeoSPARQL standard from OGC. Simple examples illustrating the use of this qualitative spatial data will be given.

Keith May

English Heritage

Exploring the Use of Semantic Technologies for Cross-Search of Archaeological Grey Literature and Data

Work has been ongoing at English Heritage in the use and development of the CIDOC CRM ontology for modelling the archaeological processes, data and conceptual relationships involved in excavation recording and analysis. This modelling was used to bring together a range of different archaeological data sets – originating from a number of separate organisations – so that they could be cross-searched using semantic technologies. This level of interoperability for otherwise unintegrated data was itself a valuable step.

Further work in the Semantic Technologies for Archaeological Resources (STAR) project explored the possibilities of mapping elements of descriptive free text to the Conceptual Reference Model and thereby making aspects of the archaeological reports cross-searchable too, alongside the other data sets.

This work required initial detailed annotation of a sample set of reports taken from the corpus of OASIS ‘grey literature’ that was available from the ADS online library. A methodology was developed to identify which parts of the reports would be best to extract information from and how to do so using Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques. A series of rule based Information Extraction (IE) routines were built, using GATE software, to handle both the grammatical and ontological ‘rules’ that were needed to process the text in the reports.

This presentation will give more details of the key elements of this work, and will discuss various issues that were encountered in trying to extract information about Events, Places, Objects and Materials.

Terhi Nurmikko

Web Science Doctoral Training Centre, University of Southampton

“To survey the land, he left his city” and other proverbs: Mapping ancient Mesopotamia from cuneiform inscriptions

From the third millennium BC onwards, the scribes of the ancient Near East generated a large corpus of written records. The known 500,000 objects carrying cuneiform inscriptions cover a great number of different types of texts, ranging from administrative records and receipts to love songs, omen readings, astronomical observations, medical texts, political propaganda and more. Mentions of individuals, places and geographical features provide information which can be used to map the ancient world, support prosopographical studies and bring to light the networks which criss-crossed the area known as the Fertile Crescent.

The geospatial representation of Mesopotamia is nothing new: housed at the British Museum is one of the oldest extant geographic maps, of Late Babylonian origin and dated to approximately the mid-first millennium BC. Other ancient documents from the area record the locations of agricultural fields next to named canals and other geographical features, whilst historical narratives track the movements of individuals and armies across genuine and mythological landscapes. Indeed, some major urban centres are only known from literary records and are still to be located by archaeologists – the ancient written documents forming thus the only available source of data. Our research examines the potential of combining these different types of records via Linked Data, harnessing a new technology to shed light on the ancient past.

Maximilian Schich

School of Arts and Humanities, The University of Texas at Dallas

Topography and Topology: Towards common ground in archaeological research

Topographic space is a dominant paradigm in archaeology since more than five centuries, when practitioners started to systematically document ancient remains in ground plans, elevations, perspectives, and maps.

While not everybody will agree that topographic space is the base of archaeology, nobody can deny that we are bathing in a plethora of topographic records, from simple lists of toponyms and drawings to sophisticated compounds of laser scans and remote sensing results. There is also no doubt that much scholarly competition in archaeology is about bigger numbers, higher resolution, and ever more precision of such topographic records. Ironically the accelerating production of topographic records results in a multiplicity of opinion that is hard to reconcile into a single coherent picture with three spatial dimensions and one clear evolution over time. Creating a pile of topographic records, we are confronted with a much more complex, multidimensional, and often incoherent, hard to understand topological space of similarities, implicit dependencies, and relations to other dimensions, such as the social and the conceptual.

This talk will shed light on how the science of complex networks, computer science, physics, and information design can help us to understand regularities and local deviations in this multidimensional topology, eventually providing us with a better map of what is known and unknown in topography.

Giorgio Uboldi

Design Department, Politecnico di Milano

Knot: an Interface for the Study of Social Networks in the Humanities

Our talk regards the design of Knot, a digital tool for exploring historical social networks, developed within a multidisciplinary research context involving designers (DensityDesign Research Lab. – Politecnico di Milano), humanities scholars (The Mapping the Republic of Letters Initiative – Stanford Humanities Center) and computer scientists (Sébastien Heymann – LIP6, CNRS, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris).

In recent years humanists have become increasingly involved in what is often referred to as the “visual-computational turn” in scholarship. The adoption of digital tools and visualization became fundamental in modern humanities studies but, while natural and social sciences have a long tradition with these technologies, these disciplines are still facing a context where well-established research methods and practices are not well integrated. The main reason behind this situation is due mainly to the lack of digital tools designed specifically for humanities studies.

The goal of our tool is to provide scholars and researchers with an environment for exploring the multi-dimensional and heterogeneous data from the Mapping the Republic of Letters project, allowing them to discover and create explicit and implicit relationships between people, places and events of the early modern period.

What distinguishes our approach to traditional network exploration and analysis is a shift in attention to the construction of the network graph through the visual interface, rather than on its static observation.

Knot also aims at exploring new opportunities for interface and information design within the definition of novel research practices in the humanities, bringing together scholars, design, and computer science communities.