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:
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:
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…)