Antiquity À-la-carte

My latest find of incredibly-useful-tools-I-wish-someone-had-told-me-about-earlier is “Antiquity À-la-carte“, an application developed by the Ancient World Mapping Centre which allows the user to create customised maps of any part of the classical world:

Antiquity 2

It has various pre-set options, with layers you can choose to show or hide: you can specify, for instance, time period (Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Late); choose whether to show urban areas, roads, and/or aqueducts; and show or hide topographic information. But what makes this incredibly useful is that you can choose exactly what locations you want to show. The application incorporates a database, so you can simply type in the name of the place you want to add to the map, and it will display it. When the database doesn’t include the place you want, there’s also an option to add your own locations, and you can add/edit/remove the labels and so on. Here, for instance, is a map I made earlier (in a Blue Peter moment) showing the distribution of find-spots of Mycenaean transport stirrup jars:

Med map 2

Equally useful is the fact that the maps are Creative Commons licensed, so they can be used for free for any non-commercial purpose so long as the site is attributed — hence can be used in publications as well as theses, presentations, etc.

Of course, the site doesn’t work perfectly. If you work on a time period it doesn’t cover (like the Bronze Age) and/or on particularly obscure sites, you’ll have to do an awful lot of laborious looking up sites’ locations and adding them manually (as I did for the map above); it can also take a very long time to load when zooming/panning, and although there’s a function to print your map to a PDF, I haven’t yet managed to get it to work — taking a screenshot is more reliable. And be warned, the site won’t save your maps itself — I accidentally navigated away from the page in the middle of making one, and had to start all over again. But exporting the map as a .json file allows it to be uploaded to the site and further edited later.

However, none of that changes the fact that free, open-access*, fully-customisable maps specifically for the ancient world are an amazingly helpful thing to have, and all credit to the AWMC for making this resource available!

*All you need to start using the application is a WordPress account. For some reason, you have to create a new one rather than using the same one as for this blog. (Somewhat scarily, though, if you use the same name and email address, it then works out you’re the same person anyway…)

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12 Responses to Antiquity À-la-carte

  1. Philip Boyes says:

    This is fantastic. I suspect it would have saved me a lot of time drawing out maps by hand in Illustrator (though that taught me how to use Illustrator, so it’s swings and roundabouts).

    In a similar vein, I don’t know if you’ve mentioned Google Earth before, but I found this very useful:

    http://www.lingfil.uu.se/staff/olof_pedersen/Google_Earth/

    It’s a Google Earth add-on that automatically labels a massive number of Near Eastern sites. There’s a similar but less comprehensive thing for the Aegean here:

    http://www.gelib.com/ancient-greek-places.htm

    It looks pretty decent but I haven’t tried that one myself.

    • AnnaJ says:

      Mycenaean Google Earth would be awesome, but sadly I can’t get it to work right now. Will keep trying!

      • Philip Boyes says:

        I just tried and it works for me. You need to follow the link in the comments (or here: https://productforums.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!msg/gec-history-illustrated-moderated/CNt4mYxS1tc/dsgj4ShDM1wJ) and download the .kmz. And you can use that and the Near East one at the same time. Which ought to cover most eventualities.

      • AnnaJ says:

        Aha! Now it works, excellent :) Can we add this to the resources page too, Hannah?

      • AnnaJ says:

        Also, just while we’re on Google Earth downloads:
        http://microsites.bournemouth.ac.uk/seeing-beneath-stonehenge/
        This is nothing to do with anything any of us study but is nonetheless VERY COOL. Even I think so despite not being an archaeologist.

      • Philip Boyes says:

        That Stonehenge thing is fantastic! That is exactly the kind of thing archaeologists should be doing to make results accessible and intelligible. The narrated tour is very clear and engaging, and then there’s all the more detailed information available if you want it. Absolutely exemplary! I wish this had existed when I was living and working as an archaeologist around that area. I often drove to site past half the places mentioned, but without a background in British archaeology, it was really hard to get my head round how they interrelated (and sadly commercial archaeology doesn’t leave much time for research).

        I hadn’t realised you could do stuff like this in Google Earth, but just think how much scope there’d be for 10-minute mini-lectures on Classical Landscapes or something, if you could find a platform to publicise them.

      • AnnaJ says:

        It would be amazing if somebody made downloads like this for Classical/Bronze Age sites. I can definitely see it being a really good thing for, e.g., the palace of Knossos, especially for talking about the reconstructions, different phases of the building’s use, etc etc. I would definitely use that!

  2. Hannah Price says:

    Very cool! We should add this to the resources page.

  3. Matt Scarborough says:

    A good excuse to make my maps today. Splendid.

  4. Pleased to see that you have discovered Antiquity À-la-carte and are finding it useful. AWMC is always happy to feedback you might have about the application. The Bronze Age Mediterranean was not covered in the data set compiled from the Barrington Atlas, but Bronze Age sites can be incorporated in a more permanent way if community members join the Pleiades Project (pleiades.stoa.org) and add Bronze Age content.

    Jeffrey Becker Ph.D. RPA
    Acting Director
    Ancient World Mapping Center

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