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The Ancient Near East in Pleiades

Creators: Tom Elliott Copyright © The Contributors. Sharing and remixing permitted under terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (cc-by).
Last modified Aug 07, 2014 06:31 PM
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We have recently accessioned some data derived from the Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients (TAVO) by an external project. Here is the status of the work, some context, and a call for volunteers.

This past weekend we finished indexing a batch of data relevant to the study of the ancient Near East that was imported a few months ago. The data was derived from the gazetteer to the Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients (TAVO) and prepared by Francis Deblauwe and Eric Kansa under the auspices of the Gazetteer of the Ancient Near East (GANE) project, which was organized by the Alexandria Archive Institute and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

This data ingest brings 2,545 new placename variants and 179 new geographic locations into Pleiades. In order to encapsulate and contextualize these Names and Locations in Pleiades, 106 new Place resources were created and 206 existing Place resources were updated and enhanced. The new placenames are drawn from 45 different ancient and modern languages, but due to their derivations from the TAVO index, they and are largely transliterated or Romanized in some way; many additional/alternate Romanizations were added by the GANE team in order to enhance the value of the dataset for search and digital reuse and remixing. The data were further enhanced with the addition of references not only to the TAVO index, but also to Wikipedia. Because of the small scale of many of the maps in TAVO and the correspondingly limited horizontal resolution of the coordinates provided in the TAVO index, the locations were imported as bounding boxes corresponding to TAVO map grid squares rather than as points. They are only relevant for the 106 new Place resources, since Pleiades already held Locations with getter horizontal resolution for previously cataloged Places.

Here is a map showing the Locations (marked with triangles) associated with the 312 new and modified Pleiades Places. Note that some points in odd locations are a consequence of the very large grid squares associated with some of the TAVO locations. A clickable list of all 312 modified Places appears at the end of this blog post.

 TAVO-enhanced places


For context, here is a map showing these "TAVO-enhanced" Places along with all the other Pleiades Places (purple circles) that fall in the same general area. 

 Tavo places in context


Status of the data and a call for volunteers

The GANE team has done a great deal of painstaking work to extract, regularize, and check the data prior to ingest, and additional cleaning was done during the ingest process; however, there is plenty of work that could further be done to improve the data and its integration in Pleiades. We have made the decision to publish the data in its current state in order to facilitate the widest possible collaboration in this regard.

The transliteration and assignment of names needs to be triple-checked; attested forms in original scripts need to be added; and Greek, Latin, and English variants need to be double-checked for possible merging with pre-existing data.

Locations also need verification, and in particular the 106 new Place resources need to have their very general "TAVO locations" replaced with more precise coordinates on the basis of survey, OpenStreetMap nodes, or analysis of satellite and aerial imagery.

Named time periods are derived from the time periods associated with TAVO maps; spot-checking indicates that the TAVO compilers sometimes anachronistically used placenames from one period on maps assigned to another period, so these need careful review and pruning.

Pleiades surely already hosts many additional Place resources, beyond this batch, that could be matched with name and date information derived from TAVO. GANE only had so much money and time, and has done a great service by getting the process started. It is my understanding that the full GANE database of the digitized index is available for review and use by third parties; it would be a great service to see additional content brought into Pleiades.

If you are interested in helping with any of these aspects, please contact the Editors via

List of all TAVO-related Place resources in Pleiades