My attempt at pumping Pleiades through yahoo pipes led to an interesting discussion with Tom Elliott, the direct of the Pleiades project. Tom writes
As Shawn observed, pumping that list of ancient names through a presentist geocoder (like Yahoo!’s) gives you suboptimal results.
Pleiades in fact stores locations for every feature (at least when we can determine their locations). In our customization work on Plone for Pleiades, we’ve tacked on a couple of other interfaces that aren’t as obvious to users as they should be. Anywhere Pleiades displays or lists spatial content, we also provide an Atom feed that’s extended with GeoRSS tags, as well as a KML feed.
So, for those archaic places, Shawn could choose to use either of:
Both provide the coordinates, and therefore get you around the geocoding problem.
The full text of Tom’s post is here. Thanks Tom! I’m going to see what I can do with those new feeds…
I recently wrote about trying to get Platial to map various kinds of data. Today I tried Yahoo Pipes. Again, the task was relatively straightforward: can I get an RSS feed of archaeological data – such as ancient places in the (non-mapped) Pleaides website database – onto a map without having to point-and-click each individual place?
First of all, I searched the various existing pipes that others have created. A pipe, by the way, is a collection of different modules ‘piped’ together to mash together different kinds of, and sources of, data. The pipe updates itself when the in-coming data changes. I found the geo-annotated Reuters news pipe, by el80n. This pipe collects information from the Reuters news-feed, extracts the locational information from it, finds out the actual coordinates for that location, and then displays the result on a yahoo map.
I swapped the feed from Reuters to Pleiades’ Archaic places, and la voila. A number of the sites from that list turned up on the map. Now, there’re a few bugs in it. The place-extractor looks at the feed, and grabs the first ‘obvious’ place name. In Reuters, that’s the modern name. In Pleaides, that’s the ancient name. The database that contains the geocoding only has modern names, so things get a little odd. For instance, Artamis (modern Messa), gets mapped to an island in the South China Sea. There’s a query builder in the pipe, so I need to figure out how to get it to grab the modern name, while labeling the map with the ancient name.
All of this took about an hour. I had never used pipes before, and all I really did was swap feeds. Imagine what somebody who knew what they were doing could accomplish! You may view the live result here.
From a few months ago on Ancient Games, a blog devoted to, well, ancient games (and cinema based on antiquity) comes the following:
With a name like The History Channel: Great Battles of Rome, it’s not too difficult to figure out what this game is about. Developed by Slitherine Software, Great Battles of Rome is a tactical battle simulator that lets you control Roman legions in battle against their many foes. Like Slitherine’s previous games, Great Battles of Rome focuses just on battles. There’s no strategic layer that presents you with a map of the Roman world, so you don’t have to worry about moving armies around the map or managing cities. All you have to worry about is managing your army, both in and between battles.
There will be more than 100 battles in the game, divided among 14 Roman campaigns. They’re all linear, too, so you must win a battle in order to progress to the next one. Most battles will be won and lost in the planning phase, before the fighting even begins. During the planning phase, you deploy your troops onto the battlefield, taking into account terrain and tactics. You’ll then give them initial orders and formations for when the battle starts. For instance, you might want infantry to hold in place, and cavalry to move forward and charge. Your opening moves and stances will be critical, because once the battle begins you won’t be able to micromanage it. Instead, you’ll have only a limited number of points, which you can use to issue orders. That’s to model the difficulty of generals to manage a battle once it has begun.
Should you win the battle, you’ll move on to the army management screen, which lets you recruit and customize squads. You can control up to 20 different squads, consisting of more than 20 troop types. There are infantry, cavalry, archers, and whatever else you’d expect from this era in history, such as elephants. You earn gold for winning battles, and you can use it to purchase new squads, replace losses in existing squads, pay for specialized training for squads, or buy better weapons and equipment for your troops. The amount of customization and training is extensive, so you can really make your squads feel like your own. Once everything is set up the way you want, you’ll launch into the next battle.
The battles are historically based, so you may battle Germanic barbarians in the North or campaign in much warmer climes. Each battle presents a different tactical challenge thanks to the terrain. Rough terrain might make things difficult for mounted units and ideal for infantry, while open terrain reverses the situation. Woods or hills might create obstacles that can be used to your advantage. You’ll also need to study the composition of the enemy force and its deployments. If you see a weakness in their lines, figure a way to exploit it. You don’t need to kill everyone in order to win a battle. That rarely happens in history. Instead, you just need to kill enough of them to make the survivors panic and flee.”
I wrote before about Vassar’s version of the Sistine Chapel in Second Life… today I came across SecundaVita, a blog and associated website about the construction of a Second Life version of the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. The simulation looks fantastic, and recreates much more of the context and setting of the Basilica than does the Vassar Sistine Chapel. I especially like the image below taken during the build of the Basilica. Note the ground plan! I could imagine taking some archaeology students into a sim in Second Life, where the ground plan of an archaeological site is presented to them for their reconstruction…
I should not complain too much about Platial, as it is still in beta-testing, and the various bugs no doubt will be ironed out. I look forward to the map-from-rss feature – even rss feeds that are not geocoded can be imported (although you have to point-and-click to get the information where you want it). This will be an enormous boon when you’re dealing for instance with something like the Pleiades project. Their database has an enormous amount of information spatial information concerning ancient places. A person can subscribe to their Archaic places feed, for instance, and get the whole list. They do provide KML files for each individual point, but nothing (as far as I can tell) in the aggregate (and you have to dig down the document tree to fin ‘em). So I tried to get Platial to import the whole list from the feed, and then I was prepared to spend the time properly dragging things into place.
Platial burped, and that was that.
If I was going to have to drag-and-drop each individual record, I thought there might perhaps be an easier interface to use. Platial after all fancies itself something of a social-networking site (you can mash up your information with information from some one else’s map)… but as Gabby mentioned in an earlier comment, what if you’re out in the field, and you want someone back at the office to have a quick map of something you’ve found, without having to register, create a profile, etc etc? Tinymap is your answer. You go to http://www.tinymap.net, zoom in on the region your working on (or punch in the decimal coordinates), drag and drop some Points-of-Interest, annotate appropriate, hit save and your done. The site gives you a unique URL for your map, and you email that back to the office. So here is a sample, with some information from Pleiades: http://www.tinymap.net/CNztQCq7hlQ/
For quick and easy maps, TinyMap wins hands-down over Platial. Platial is better for more complicated maps with greater functionality – eventually.
I clearly have too much time on my hands today. Anyway, I found ‘Flash Earth’, a site that allows you to select and display different sources of aerial/satellite imagery for whatever location you happen to be looking at. This link displays the location of Forum Novum. By cycling through the different sources, I found some images that were much higher resolution than the Google ones, other images displayed crop marks, and in one you can clearly see the trenches from our excavations in ’99 and 2000. Flash Earth would seem to be a handy tool.
I love machinima that people create – Where would they be without Carl Orff and Carmina Burana? But this piece is rather nicely done. Imagine if you had some tech-savvy students… wouldn’t something like the piece below be more entertaining to grade than another essay? Question is, what grade would this piece get? And on what would you mark it? I feel a rubric coming on…
It turns out that what I thought was so clever yesterday, was done some time ago by folks at DePauw:
MAGIS, an inventory of regional survey projects in the greater Mediterranean region.
As of today, they have 288 survey projects in their spatially-searchable database. The interface is a bit clunky though, and relies on popups, which my browser consistently shuts down, despite me telling it not too. Platial and my BiblioCartography also have the advantage of allowing others to embed the maps in their own applications. If I get around to it, I might incorporate the MAGIS inventory.
In my research, I have often wished to know what kinds of archaeological projects were going on in a given region. This usually involved a bibliographical search on various names describing the region or place names I know within the region. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I know the name of the principle researcher synonymous with the region’s archaeology, and can search for that person’s published works.
But what if I don’t know these things? What if research in an area has yet to be published? It can sometimes be an extremely frustrating process. Wouldn’t it be better if you could just zoom in on a map of the region, and discover who is working there, and the relevant publications?
The map lives over on the side of this blog. I have created a sample annotation for how I think it will work: I have located a site that I have worked on (Forum Novum), provided links to relevant webpages describing the project, and included a small bibliography of published works relevant to that site. Marking a new site is a simple point-and-click process. You too may create annotations by using the buttons underneath the map. You can embed the map in your own website – and I’d be enormously pleased if you did!
I would suggest using the following format when you describe a site, because this will allow for more effective searching of the map:
Site name, site type
Links to major relevant website(s)
Names of principle investigators (which could be included in the tags)
Archaeoinformatics has posted a number of archived lectures which may be of interest to those who have one foot in the dirt and another in bits&bytes, available here. And if you’re wondering who ‘Archaeoinformatics’ are, they tell us that:
Archaeoinformatics.org, is established as a collaborative organization to design, seek funding for, and direct a set of cyberinfrastructure initiatives for archaeology. Archaeoinformatics.org seeks to coordinate with and, develop interoperability of its own projects with other relevant data-sharing initiatives. It offers to work with professional organizations and federal agencies to promote policies that will foster the development of cyberinfrastructure for archaeology.
I also draw your attention to ‘Digging Digitally‘, a blog connected with the Society for American Archaeology Digital Data Interest Group. They are organising a session for the 2008 SAA conference in Vancouver that sounds extremely interesting:
If you are developing or using web-based tools or resources for communicating archaeology, or if you have ideas or opinions about this subject, please consider being a presenter or discussant in a “Web 2.0″ session at the next SAA meeting in Vancouver (March 26-30, 2008). Please review the abstract below and contact Sarah Kansa (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in participating. This session is co-organized by Sarah Kansa (The Alexandria Archive Institute) and Julian Richards (Archaeology Data Service & Univ. of York). The Alexandria Archive Institute is sponsoring the session by covering the cost of registration fees for presenters.