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Mediterranean Pathways: GIS, Network Analysis, and the Ancient World

Ryan M. Horne

University of Pittsburgh

We live in a world that is increasingly defined and shaped by networks. Electronic networks, once envisioned to be open highways of communication, are increasingly the site of largely isolated homogenous networks of information shaped by ideology. Some scholars have considered these groups, despite their embrace of technical innovation and involvement with social uprisings like the Arab Spring, as another component of a complex web of social, political and geospatial networks dominated by powerful nation-states. These networks are often studied as a proxy of larger social phenomena, or used to quantify the movement of people and material through complex geospatial systems.

Such an approach is not restricted to studies of the modern era. Some scholars of the pre-modern era recognize and envision complex societies as geospatial networks of relationships between different entities places, and use new digital tools to study the ancient Mediterranean as a connected system of relationships. However, perhaps due to earlier technological limitations, such work has not been widely adopted or used in the ancient studies community broadly. Even less work has been done to integrate networks and geospatial studies, or to expand this inquiry beyond the traditional confines of Greece and Rome. Additionally, although numismatic studies have embraced linked open data (LOD) resources, the application of network analysis to the field, especially combined with geospatial studies, is in its infancy.

Through the use of new software, digital techniques, and resources, this paper demonstrates how research projects can transform simple digital gazetteers and data collections into a larger examination of networks and connectivity. By modeling Hellenistic kingdoms as networked systems, this paper builds upon the pioneering work of Monica Smith and Stanford’s ORBIS project to show how coin production and distribution, combined with careful textual analysis, can help to elucidate the social and political networks of the Hellenistic world. Building upon the NEH-funded Aeolian Alexanders project, this paper will discuss how network analysis and geospatial studies can dramatically change how die studies and other numismatic inquiry both conduct and present their findings. In addition, this paper will illustrate how existing resources, like roads data from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Ancient World Mapping Center and Harvard’s Digital Atlas of Roman and Medieval Civilizations (DARMC), travel costs from ORBIS, coin data from the American Numismatic Society’s NOMISMA project, and the Pleiades gazetteer can be leveraged by non-specialists to model the flow of materials and communications between urban centers in the Hellenistic east.

It must be stressed that this paper is not a step-by-step tutorial on these technologies or a complete analytical analysis of the Hellenistic world. What it offers is a high-level view of a digital methodology that enables a non-technical specialist to efficiently construct geospatial network depictions of complex human systems for further research, and how those technologies can be applied to numismatic and historical studies.

Session/Panel Title

Inter-Regional Networks in Hellenistic Eurasia

Session/Paper Number

78.5

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