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Yale Digital Dura-Europos Archive

Anne Chen (Yale University)

Kyle Conrau-Lewis (Yale University)

Artifacts excavated at the critically important archaeological site of Dura-Europos (Syria) are currently dispersed into collections across the world. The Yale Digital Dura-Europos Archive (YDEA) is aimed at using Linked Open Data (LOD) to reassemble and recontextualize the site’s archaeological data, in an effort to make the site and its artifacts more readily intelligible and discoverable, both for specialist and non-specialist audiences. In this demonstration of a work-in-progress web application powered by Wikidata, we will illustrate LOD’s potential to mitigate challenges presented by datasets with complex provenance histories and physical dispersal among distinct institutions. Included among these challenges is the vexing issue of how to easily locate information relevant to a location or object when naming traditions have varied over time due to historiographic factors or multilingual archival practices (ie. Dura = Doura = Dura-Europos = Dura-Europas = Salihiyed; Tower 2 = Tower of the Archers), or objects have received iterative inventory numbers due to institutional reorganization or the physical transferal of objects to a new institution. Additionally, we will also touch on the equity/inclusion/postcolonial considerations that impacted our choice to develop the project backend in Wikidata, and the pedagogical potential that this choice has introduced into the further development of the project.

As of March 2021, the project backend is substantively in place within Wikidata, with access to some 15,000 artifacts currently held in six different institutions. The urban gazetteer for the site, which will serve as the backbone for enabling the visualization of object findspots, is in an advanced state of development with Pleiades and is anticipated for completion in Spring 2021. We have recently contracted with a web development team to build a frontend for the YDEA web application that will enable user-friendly searches and data visualizations powered by Wikidata. The web-development work is slated for completion by early 2022.

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