Thursday, March 31, 2011

Brief Anecdote about Discoverability, Sigma Tables, and the Athenian Agora

In the middle of today's meeting of the ISAW Roman Pottery Reading Group, the issue of "sigma tables" came up. These semi-circular marble tables are invoked by both of today's authors so it was natural to pause on the topic. At which I point I mentioned, "there's one in the Agora and I bet it's online." Quick Google search on "marble sigma table agora" and we were a click away from the Agora's database.

That's object A 3869.

My only point is that because the object was easy to find via the public Internet, we were able to include it in our conversation. It was very useful to compare a specimen to Hudson's and Vroom's analysis and to the additional visual evidence they each gather.

As a reminder, here's what we read:
  • Nicholas Hudson. 2010. "Changing Places: The Archaeology of the Roman Convivium." AJA 114.4: 663-695.
  • Joanita Vroom. 2008. ‘The archaeology of late antique dining habits in the eastern Mediterranean: A preliminary study of the evidence’, in: L. Lavan, E. Swift and T. Putzeys (eds.), Objects in Context, Objects in Use. Material Spatiality in Late Antiquity (Late Antique Archaeology 5), Leiden and Boston: 313-361.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cool pics of a Roman Hoard

I'm slow to geting round to this, but really, do visit The pictures of the coins are cool. Even cooler are the pictures of the large vessel they were buried in. Those of us in numismatics frequently see the dry phrase, "Found in pot", or the more concise term, "Pot hoard". This page will help you visualize what that really means.

Here's a sample:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Roman Pottery Reading Group at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World

A few of my ISAW/NYU colleagues and I have begun a "Roman Pottery Reading Group," which seems to be settling into a sort of every-other-week-ish-y schedule.

We began with three "Romanization" articles:
  • D. Malfitana, J. Poblome and J. Lund. 2005. "Late Hellenistic imports of eastern sigillata A in Italy. A socio-economic perspective," Babesch 80: 199-212.
  • Poblome, Jeroen and Michael Zelle. 2002. “The table ware boom: a socio-economic perspective from western Asia Minor” in Christof Berns, Henner von Hesberg, Lutgarde Vendeput and Marc Waelkens (eds.), Patris und Imperium, Leuven: 275-287.
  • Rotroff, S. 1997. "From Greek to Roman in Athenian Ceramics," in M.C. Hoff and S.I. Rotrof ( eds.), The Romanization of Athens, , Oxford: 97-116.
It was an added bonus that my colleague Billur Tekkök, in the States on a Fulbright Fellowship, could join us for that first session.

Next we read:
The point here was to look at representative samples of 40 years of publication from one site. Put simply: what has changed in techniques and approaches over that time? A little "inside baseball" but a fun conversation.

Next up is ceramics and dining:
  • Nicholas Hudson. 2010. "Changing Places: The Archaeology of the Roman Convivium." AJA 114.4: 663-695.
  • Joanita Vroom. 2008. ‘The archaeology of late antique dining habits in the eastern Mediterranean: A preliminary study of the evidence’, in: L. Lavan, E. Swift and T. Putzeys (eds.), Objects in Context, Objects in Use. Material Spatiality in Late Antiquity (Late Antique Archaeology 5), Leiden and Boston: 313-361.

We're meeting Thursday, March 31 at 3:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time. It's tempting to see if anybody wants to join us virtually. If really, truly, "yes", I'll see what we can do.

Friday, March 4, 2011

LRC/Phocaean Red Slip at Alexandria Troas

Anybody who would enjoy seeing a nice color picture of LRC/Phocaean Red-Slip rim sherds should take a look at figure 23 on page 15 of Stefan Feuser's article "The Roman Harbour of Alexandria Troas, Turkey" in volume 40.1 (2010) of The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, doi:j.1095-9270.2010.00294.x.

From Typed Links to Annotations in Ancient Geography

I've been participating in the discusions of the Pelagios Project's plans to establish semantic web/linked data conventions for linking geographic information in the ancient world. is listed as a partner and it's a good group of people who are coming together to think about the issue.

As always, the individuals and projects involved don't want to re-invent the wheel. And, also as always, some new work - even if it's just establishing a domain-specific use for existing standards - is necessary. That last is what I'm thinking about right now.

I mean the title of this post to establish an axis of complexity when it comes to relating a web-based resource to a geographic entity. A "typed link" is basically plain-old HTML with a little bit of RDF-sugar to say that the end-point is a geographic entity. I've already spoken about doing this in earlier posts. Here, let me start with the RDF/Turtle:

@prefix dcterms: <> .
@prefix geo: <> .
@prefix powder: <> .
@prefix rdfs: <> .

[] a dcterms:Location,geo:SpatialThing;
powder:describedby <>;
rdfs:label "Rome" .
This is the RDFa:

<a href="" typeof="dcterms:Location geo:SpatialThing" rel="powder:describedby" property="rdfs:label">Rome</a>

Again, that's pretty simple html that adds a little in-place information that the link is to a geographic entity that is defined at a particular URL. There are many tools that can parse that link and do interesting things like show a map. Hence the term I'm using here, "typed link". And I include as an "interesting thing" the now prosaic ability of a user to click on that link when it's rendered by a browser. Human readable and machine actionable. Win, win.

To be clear, with this post I am suggesting to my Pelagios colleagues that we use this or a similarly "light-weight" convention for the simple case of a link to a geographic entity. And yes, I don't mind if you use dcterms:Location, geo:SpatialThing or both. Those are the most widespread RDF Classes for indicating that a resource is a geographic entity.

An "annotation" is something different. The source document is trying to say something about the geographic entity. In this case, consensus seems to be building around the Open Annotation Consortium. That's a good thing on the "use existing work" principle. This time I'll start with a sentence: "Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire". Trivial, I know, but the point is to focus on the markup.

In RDF/Turtle, I want to say something like:

@prefix dcterms: <> .
@prefix geo: <> .
@prefix oac: <> .
@prefix rdfs: <> .

_:oacEx a oac:Annotation ;
oac:hasTarget <>;
oac:hasBody “was the capital of the Roman Empire” .

# choose one or both of dcterms:Location or geo:SpatialThing
<> a dcterms:Location, geo:SpatialThing ;
rdfs:label "Rome" .

The top level concept is oac:Annotation , a class that encapsulates the relationship between a body (the thing annotating) and a target (the thing annotated). This RDF/Turtle basically says "There's a location 'Rome' that 'was the capital of the Roman empire'. In RDFa, that's:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<html xmlns:dcterms=""
<span id="annotation1" typeof="oac:Annotation" about="#annotation1" >
<a rel="oac:hasTarget" href="">Rome</a> <span property="oac:hasBody">was the capital of the Roman Empire.</span>
<span style="display:none" about="" typeof="dcterms:Location geo:SpatialThing"></span>

This is a first crack at the RDFa so note the 'hidden' span that says the Pleiades URI is a dctermsLocation/geo:SpatialThing. I'm guessing I or somebody else can do better than that.

But the real point of this post is to propose that ladder of complexity. Use a combination of 'powder:describedby' along with dcterms:Location and/or geo:SpatialThing when that will suffice. Open Annotation is for more complex situations. Reactions?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Linking from Citation to Example in Numismatic (and other) Scholarship

I let myself follow a tangent today. It starts with noting that the article by C. Lorber and A. Meadows that I'm preparing for publication "Review of Ptolemaic Numismatics" makes frequent reference to coin types described in J. Svoronos, Ta nomismata tou kratous ton Ptolemaion. Athens, 1904-1908. It is an obvious feature of such a publication that those references lead readers to information about those coins.

To start on the journey towards such linking, I created URIs for all coin types defined in Svoronos' typology at See There's very little description there, and what is there is cribbed from C. Lorber's translation at

Now, if you go to this paragraph in Lorber and Meadows, which makes reference to Svoronos, you'll see that the link to "Sv. 1424" is live. Look towards the end of the paragraph. And note that it's possible to refer to single <p> elements in the article. That's because each one has an @id with a unique value. That's cool and important.

Follow the link to and you'll see further links to the ANS collection and to The former is a rock-solid stable URI but the coin hasn't been photographed (hint, hint). The latter is to an interesting project that is digitizing a type corpora for many series of coins. As the editor of ISAW Papers I don't have to worry if it's super-stable. I rely on to provide reasonable links and to keep them current.

The end result is a hint of a richly linked and illustrated future. Again, cool. I'd like to cross-the-bridge (as it were) and deliver images of Sv. 1424 while readers are still within the "environment" of Lorber and Meadows. But the first step is implementing such links, then we can work on the user experience.

In other news.... there is now a github for ISAW Papers at

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Archival" and "Presentation" versions of (x)html-based scholarship

Briefly...The presentation version changes the extension to ".html", adds some formatting to fix the page width and to justify the body paragraphs. It also adds an appendix of links to named entities at the end. That last suggests an interesting future.

The goal here is to maintain a focus on an archival version with very little formatting in it, while also exploring what the "nicer" presentation version can look like. Eventually this content will appear in a CMS-like environment. That should be attractive and functional so I'm figuring out what that means. In time, I'll add features along the lines of "pop-up" windows for geographic entities and the like. Not sure exactly what that entails but we'll find out as we go along.

And I'll move this to github in the near-ish future.