The Cross-cultural AfterLife of Classical Sites (CALCS) project has come to the end of its pilot phase. We introduced the project, and discussed its further development on this blog, and we’re now delighted to share our latest updates, after CALCS was presented to the Linked Pasts II conference in Madrid (14-16 December 2016) and the Digital Infrastructure for Named Entities conference in Leipzig (11-13 January 2017).
We have added about 2300 Arabic and Turkish names (currently under revision) to the Pleiades Gazetteer, both ancient and modern. With this implementation of a widely used digital resource we wanted to show, or at least suggest, that many classical places, especially those around the Mediterranean Sea, were immersed in a complex, rich and multilayered cultural life, that is mirrored, among other things, by the plurality and diversity of their names. We also see the addition of Arabic names as a resource to enhance the understanding of how place-names changed, evolved and influenced each other, from a philological perspective.
During the past months, we have involved communities of Arabic students and researchers in the annotation of classical places via the Recogito platform, and into the identification and addition of Arabic place-names directly in Pleiades, with the intent of amplifying the role of Arabic scholarship, both past and present, in the study of Classics.
The bulk upload mode that we designed (and presented on this blog), is being implemented by the Pleiades developers and will soon be available to everyone, speeding up and making more efficient the process of contributing to the gazetteer. We want to stress that the bulk upload mode is not exempt from the editorial curation of Pleiades data. All information introduced, regardless its mode, has always to be vetted and approved by the Pleiades editorial board. The new place-name entries we uploaded within the CALCS project are, as well, now undergoing the traditional review process and, only after that, they will be visible to all users on the Pleiades gazetteer.
Thanks to the insight of our colleague Ryan Baumann, we developed a little python script (available on github) that extracts all the places in Pleiades that fall within the borders of a given modern country, and exports them in a tabular format, which can be annotated in a spreadsheet by our collaborators with the addition of Arabic and Turkish (etc.) names, and then in turn imported into Pleiades with the new information. Besides this particular application that facilitated our workflow, enabling contributors to focus only on the places that were of interest to them, this script might prove useful in other contexts too, when filtering data from Pleiades.
CALCS was a very exciting project for us and for the people that contributed to it through workshops, schools and seminars. It is not surprising, then, that we have been thinking of possible future developments that will be, ideally, taken over by communities of students and researchers in Arabic and Turkish speaking countries.
From our perspective, it would be interesting to use the current bulk upload mode, that only allows one to add names for places already in Pleiades, as a starting point to build a more complex version, that also enables the creation of new place-entities in the gazetteer. Another line of development that we would like to pursue is the addition of pre-classical names of ancient places, especially those around the Mediterranean. If CALCS was about the cultural afterlives of classical site, why not think of the previous lives of those places as well?!
We also believe that a project like CALCS has highlighted the importance of looking at places as cultural entities, and how the idea of a place can change not only through time but also across different contemporary cultures. In this sense, CALCS seems to be an excellent starting point for projects that gather and compare different views of the same place, and the different connotations that have been assigned to it.
Our spreadsheet is still public and available via our github page. Please, feel free to add more Arabic and Ottoman names and sources at any time, and to use CALCS as teaching material in classes and seminars. You can also request access to the maps that are available on the CALCS account on Recogito and contribute to the annotation of them.