The Ancient History Encyclopedia

Jan van der Crabben is a name you might be familiar with if you’ve played any of the mods or other community-built content for Civilization IV. Jan has a new project under way, called ‘The Ancient History Encyclopedia‘, and he’s looking for content and editors. And, in a lovely twist not often seen, he’s willing to pay contributors. His note is below:

The goal is to become the number one source of information on ancient history — for students, academics, enthusiasts, and the general public alike.

I believe that this is achievable due to our unique way of presenting information: The website is centered around tags (which are essentially the entries in a printed encyclopedia), with each tag having a definition, articles, a timeline, illustrations, and external links / book references displayed. Like this, one finds several different kinds of information at the same time, in a modern format. When you visit the website, you will be able to see this organization best on the “Babylon” page, simply because it is the page with the most content at the moment.

The website address is and I would be happy if you could visit it and have a look. Please be aware that it’s far from complete! There isn’t very much content yet, we clearly need a lot more content to make this website a success. Also, you are among the first people to be using this website, so there might still be bugs. If something doesn’t work, or doesn’t work as you would expect, please email me what you were doing, what happened, and why it’s not what you expected.

Please register at the website (the “Register” link is at the top), and start adding content wherever you can! Content is submitted through the website, using the existing online forms. You can add/edit a definition, an article, or an illustration. You can also contribute timeline entries. Look for the “Add”, “Edit”, and “Upload” buttons in the relevant sections of the site (generally on the right of the section headline).

You can choose what you want to write about… We need definitions, articles, and illustrations. Please be careful not to infringe on any copyright, so only submit your own work. Of course you are allowed to submit work that you’ve already written, as long as you hold the copyright to it (this might be a grey area if it’s published in an academic publication, for example). You can also submit work that falls under a Creative Commons or GFDL license (such as images from Wikipedia), as long as it is attributed and licensed correctly. Please do not copy & paste any text from Wikipedia or other websites, only images are fine to copy under a CC or GFDL license.

All content that you submit is reviewed and possibly edited. Before the review process is complete and your content has been approved it will not show up on the website. So if you don’t see something you’ve written, be patient. If it doesn’t show up within a few days, please contact me. There will be a more formal system that allows the contributors and editors to communicate through the website in the future.

The website makes money through book sales (via Amazon, we get a commission), as well as advertisements (which aren’t online yet). As I’ve mentioned before, the 100 first contributions will be paid at a rate of US $10 per article and US $5 per definition. For definitions, only new definitions are paid, edits do not count. You will be paid when the initial paid submission period is over and we’ve got 100 contributions. Payment will be conducted via PayPal. After the initial paid phase, you will be able to earn advertising revenue on your content using Google AdSense and possibly other revenue sources.

There are no deadlines: You can submit work at any time, on any subject you choose (subject to review). The more you submit, the more money will you receive. :-)

I did ask him how he feels this will differ from Wikipedia, which is pretty solid on many things ancient. He responds that it is in the backend, and in how the information is served up with the ancillary materials. I’ve explored a bit, and I like that for any given article you can see who authored it; a little difference there with the big W; perhaps some sort of reputation-tracking mechanism would be useful. One thing I noticed is the feed from Amazon will serve up ‘pyramidiot’ and other nonsense they classify as ‘ancient history’ – 2012 anyone?  I don’t know how well those materials can be filtered before they’re displayed.

Check it out. I’m always ready to applaud new initiatives that make our subject better known to the wider world – good on you, Jan!

3 thoughts on “The Ancient History Encyclopedia

  1. This is a great idea, however the website doesn’t provide an “About” page telling the viewer who is running the site, the protocol for definitions being accepted, etc. I am sure that any intelligent visitor to the site can figure out the purpose (online encyclopedia), but based on my small amount of web development experience, I have found it best to overstate the obvious. Certainly scholars using this site in the future will benefit knowing that the information they are consuming has been peer-reviewed to some extent!

  2. Thank for posting this, Graham.

    I just wish to add another point regarding the difference to Wikipedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia is edited, so no change can be made without it being approved by an editor. If you look at some ancient history articles as “the big W”, you quickly realize that an editor would have been a good thing, if only for creating a consistent article or style.

    I am fully aware of the bogus “history” books that Amazon serves up. The next feature that I’ll implement is going to be a blacklist that will filter out undesired books that Amazon feeds through. It’s been a sore point for a while now…

    @ Dig Girl:
    You raise a very good point here. The “About” page is definitely required and will come soon. Not all of Ancient History Encyclopedia is complete yet. The site is changing every week, with more features coming (as much as time permits me to do). :-)

    Most of all we need more content. There are already over 100 articles and 100 definitions, as well as countless more timeline entries and illustrations, but ancient history is a very wide subject.

  3. Just to let you know, I’ve just added functionality that lets visitors flag up inappropriate books, so that they can be added to a blacklist which will filter out those books we don’t want (like anything written by Erich von Däniken…).

    So please help out: Whenever you see a book that you think isn’t serious or shouldn’t be there, go onto the book page and use the link at the bottom to flag it up! :-)

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