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  3. Project Lens: Pleiades

Project Lens: Pleiades

Pleiades is an ongoing effort to use, create, and share information about the precise geographic location of places that no longer exist or that have changed names since ancient times. While it started with a focus on Ancient Rome and Greece, it is expanding to include Byzantine, Ancient Near East, and Celtic places as well.

The data used to create each map point is generated by a community of scholars, working together and sharing their knowledge to facilitate further research and discovery.

It is vital for many geospatial projects to have good data on historic location names, in order to ensure accurate representation of the data on a map. A data set that included both Istanbul and Constantinople, or St. Petersburg and Leningrad, for example, would need notation indicating that these are the same cities with different names, and would need some way to indicate the transition if a temporal aspect was added to the spatial visualization.

To search for a place in Pleiades, simply begin typing in the search box on the home page. As you type, suggested completions populate in a drop-down from the search bar, and results populate underneath.

Search for "Ithac" in Pleiades with results for Ithaca populating.

The metadata for each place, location, or name is visible on its page. Additionally, places have a pre-formatted citation for scholarly use and for Wikipedia’s code. These features, along with other efforts to make the data discoverable, make it clear that Pleiades is intended to be used and referenced and is not a restricted resource.

The project is extremely well documented, no doubt in part because the project relies on contributions from the scholarly community. The Help section, linked in the primary navigation, is a robust resource of written documentation and data resources. The data structure and data model are explained in a clear manner with specific examples from the data set. The controlled vocabularies used to define time periods and place categories are given their own page that is prominently featured in this section.

Pleiades resources

This data is available in both human- and machine-readable formats, making it accessible to scholars and search engines. Moreover, Pleiades regular updates data sets for download in JSON, CSV, KML, and RDF formats, with explanations of how robust each data set is and how it might be used. Try downloading the CSV version and looking at the data and its organization.

Pleiades is an impressive resource of historical geographic data and a model for possible future projects for other eras and locations.

Updated on July 24, 2018

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