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Conceptual Overview

Creators: Sean Gillies, Jeffrey Becker, Elizabeth Robinson, Adam Rabinowitz, Tom Elliott, Noah Kaye, Brian Turner, Stuart Dunn, Sarah Bond, Ryan Horne Copyright © The Contributors. Sharing and remixing permitted under terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (cc-by).
Last modified May 24, 2019 08:26 AM
An introduction to Pleiades and the types of information resources it contains.

Pleiades is a gazetteer of ancient places. Most content in the gazetteer is represented using four classes of information structures: places, locations, names, and connections.

Places

Pleiades places are the primary organizational construct of the gazetteer. They are conceptual entities: the term "place" applies to any locus of human attention, material or intellectual, in a real-world geographic context. A settlement mentioned in an ancient text is a place, whether or not it can now be located; an archaeological site is a place; a modern city located atop an ancient settlement is a place. Basically, any spatial feature that is connected to the pre-modern past and that a human being has noticed and discussed as such between the past and the present is a place.

Places in Pleiades can therefore represent:

  • areas of fairly intensive human activity like settlements and sanctuaries;

  • large-scale geological features known in antiquity like mountains, rivers, lakes;

  • political, social, or cultural constructs like provinces and mining districts; and

  • individual structures, when they have been referred to individually by ancient sources or modern scholars (e.g., the Parthenon, the Queen’s Megaron at Knossos, the Basilica Iulia, the House of the Faun).

  • Spatial extents or thematic groupings of places defined by modern scholars or administrative entities for purposes of analysis, description, reference, or heritage management (e.g., the Aswan Quarry Landscape, or the Archaeological Border complex of Hedeby and the Danevirke)

Pleiades recognizes a variety of place categories or types; new categories can be added as needed by editorial college.

Places are entirely abstract, conceptual entities. They are objects of thought, speech, or writing, not tangible, mappable points on the earth’s surface. They have no spatial or temporal attributes of their own. A place can exist in name only in an ancient source, without any material correlate; conversely, an archaeological site can exist as a place without an ancient name.

The spatial aspects of Pleiades places (i.e., latitude and longitude coordinates in space), as well as their ancient and modern names, are addressed through two other conceptual entities: locations and names. Connections are used to express and document relationships between different places. Temporal characteristics are recorded at the name, location, and connection levels as appropriate.

Locations

Locations in Pleiades connect places to coordinates in space. A location identifies a specific area of interest on the earth’s surface that is associated with a place during a particular date range. A place can contain multiple locations. Locations, on the other hand, are associated with one and only one place. Depending on the state of the evidence, the association between location and place may vary in certainty; some places, attested by name in ancient sources, may have no associated location at all because modern scholarship cannot pinpoint reliably the ancient site or area in question.

Names

Names in Pleiades are also connected with places. A name reflects the identity of a place in human language, not its physical location in the landscape. Names have no spatial coordinates, but they are always annotated with the time period(s) of the textual source(s) in which they are attested. As with locations, a single place can have multiple names, but an individual name can be associated with one and only one place. This is true even if the same sequence of characters is also attested as a name for another place; Pleiades treats these “identical” names as separate entities.

Connections

Connections are direct place-to-place relationships allowing the expression and documentation of geographic hierarchies, networks, and linkages. Like names and locations, they can be bounded in time and justified or explained by reference to ancient evidence and modern scholarly argument. Partitive, flow, and proximity connections are preferred over bounding boxes, convex hulls, and the like as mechanisms for creating spatial footprints for otherwise unlocatable places and for places with uncertain extents or unmappable boundaries. Temporal, political, economic, and analytical connections can also be expressed. The Pleiades editorial college maintains a growing vocabulary of connection types that provides standard terms and definitions for the classes of relationships that Pleiades contributors are entering into the gazetteer.