Work is getting underway on our Gazetteer of Medieval Cyprus project. By ‘our’ I mean myself and my KCL colleagues Tassos Papacostas and Charlotte Roueche, and various others in the Department of Digital Humanities whose contributions will be kicking in soon. The project as a whole is funded by the A. G. Leventis Foundation. This is a pilot gazetteer to develop a methodology, which will be tested in the online publication of a small body of Byzantine material, already assembled by Tassos. The long-term aim is to provide archaeologists and historians studying Cyprus at any period with a freely available set of tools and skills. The medium-term aim is to provide a well-structured framework for the digital analysis and publication of materials from Byzantine Cyprus, from the end of Late Antiquity to the period of the Crusades (c. AD 650-1200). This will subsequently serve as the basis for other independently funded but interoperable projects to display, interlink and contextualize their data.
The collaborative landscape is fast moving. We have been talking to the excellent Pelagios project, and hope that our GBC will contribute data to the Pelagios federation. The exemplum is based around a Cyprus Gazetteer of places. The aim here is to draw on existing resources in order to build a stable and usable resource; while our work will only focus on ‘Byzantine’ places, the resultant resource will be designed to be steadily expanded. We will begin by linking toponym entries in the authoritative Complete Gazetteer of Cyprus / CGC (Christodoulou and Konstantinidis 1987) with their equivalents in GeoNames. This will mean, in the future, that ancient sites will be searchable by the modern administrative areas in which they lie, as well as being linkable via archaeological attributes such as feature type, time period, etc. It will also allow us to build a data structure that will be linkable to other geospatial resources on the web. A basic URI structure has been developed, which will allow the geographical hierarchy in the database to be described, and to be infinitely extensible. We begin by aligning placenames in the CGC with those in geonames, and then treat each archaeological entity identified in the exemplum Architectural Catalogue as a ‘child’ of that unique geographical entity, using the unique GeoNames reference number. The resource we are currently developing will have a user interface which will allow users to add archaeological entity points to this structure.
For me, the key interest of this project lies in the inversion of scale it brings to the digital gazetteer world. Many existing digital gazetteers, such as GeoNames, deal with very large geographic regions but the data associable with them is very ‘thin’ (for more discussion see Linda L. Hill’s Georeferencing: The Geographic Associations of Information, and my 2007 review of it). This, I think, is a natural imperative of the Geospatial Web to expand to wider and wider coverage. Cyprus, however, represents a relatively small geographic area, with a very thick and chronologically complex layer of data, with interconnections across the Aegean and Near East from the Bronze Age to the medieval period. This will present us with exciting opportunities to test how locations are ‘attested’ across many disparate sources, and how those attestations can be most usefully presented and documented.