Political Borders Of Ancient Antioch Realized Using Google Earth
January 2, 2014

Political Borders Of Ancient Antioch Realized Using Google Earth

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

University of Cincinnati researchers have used Google Earth to display the boundaries of ancient Antioch.

Antioch was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey. The city is said to have been founded in 293 BC, and has seen cultures like Greek, Roman and Arab pass through it.

Kristina Neumann and colleagues used Google Earth to convert historical data from a coin database into a visual representation of Antioch’s political borders. She analyzed how the software plots which coins were found where and in what quantity across different time periods. This research not only allows Neumann to show the transformation of Antioch’s political influence as the Roman Empire took over, but it also shows how Google Earth could be a great tool for other historians.

"I trace the process of change by working with historical proxies, in this case coins," Neumann, a doctoral candidate in the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences Department of Classics, said in a statement. "I created my own database from previously published excavation reports and lists of coin hoards, and imported it to Google Earth. My criteria are so detailed that I can see all the coins for a particular emperor or of a particular material."

She used coins because they provide a great wealth of data about a city’s political relationship among cities. If Antiochene coins were found in a neighboring city, it meant that a political agreement had been etched between the two governments. Neumann catalogued critical information about a coin, like where it was minted and under whose authority, and created a visual database using Google Earth.

"I'm trying to help historians think outside the box," Neumann, who is presenting her research at the Archaeological Institute of America and American Philological Association Joint Annual Meeting this week, said. "There's a huge movement in the digital humanities in general, and this research speaks to that. Using tools such as Google Earth to visualize the ancient world could also have ramifications for how we look at data today."

Neumann found Antioch’s civic coins spread farther out than previously theorized. She said they were particularly abundant along a trade route. Google Earth allowed the researcher to scan centuries of change in a matter of seconds, showing off Antioch’s political authority as well as its evolving influence in selected regions and cities.

"I'm very interested in the idea of empire – physical empires, but also empires similar to what America has with its cultural and informational empires, and the idea of globalization," Neumann says. "My bigger question is, 'How do you get one empire which absorbs a lot of different people and yet lasts so long? How is stability achieved even with vast diversity?' I think that can speak to today's society with the culture changes we're seeing."