The third session of BootCamp day for me at THATCamp SE was Intro to GIS with Michael Page (a geographer/librarian at Emory who works in the classical world, with Emory’s Bonna Daix Wescoat at Samothrace’s Sanctuary of the Great Gods.) We looked at a lot of features of Google Earth and did a really quick creation of a file with the location of our Civil War Letter.
This was a little more structured than other sessions at BootCamp; Page had taught “Intro to Google Earth” before, and had pre-staged .kml files (that’s the Google Earth file format) for us to open and play with, each illustrating a feature of the program. Then we did a quick piece of coding in xml (mostly cutting and pasting) that allowed us to develop a .kml file that would open in Google Earth with a pushpin at a location related to the Civil War Letter, and an info window with the MARBL graphic and a link to the text of the letter. I also learned what a “smoot” is – a geeky measurement (which is an option in Google Earth) derived from a 1958 MIT prank involving Oliver Smoot, who, and this is the best part, grew up to become the head of the ISO.
The applications for GIS in archaeological field work and architectural reconstruction have been obvious for a long time. One example from our session was Page’s own work using Google Earth at Samothrace – he showed us a file with the site plan overlain on the satellite image of the site. Many classicists are probably familiar with the Google Earth Rome 3-d visualization project that got a lot of press when it debuted. But GIS can be useful for non-archaeological analysis as well – see, for example, the Hestia Project (which the authors have popularly referred to as “Herodotus Earth” (pdf, may open in browser.) This project spatially coded all places in the text of Herodotus, allowing not just for two and three-dimensional maps but for network maps and maps with place markers sized larger as the number of times the place is mentioned in the text grows.
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