The Athenians Project: Digitizing and Cataloguing Squeezes and Interactive Ancient Athens Mapping
Research Team Lead
Nick Cercone
Nick Cercone
York University
Abstract:
The Athenians Project is a multi-year, ongoing project of the study of the persons of ancient Athens. Athens was the largest city in Greece, and controlled a region called Attica. Nestled between the many mountains were fertile valleys, with many luscious farms. The abundance of valuable resources including silver, lead and marble that lie beneath Attica funded the opulence of Athens. In the classical period, Athens was a center for the arts, learning and philosophy. It was also home of Plato’s Akademia and Aristotle’s Lyceum. Prominent philosophers, writers and politicians of this ancient world such as Aeschylus, Euripides, Pericles, Plato, Socrates, Sophocles were all from Athens. Athens is widely referred to as the cradle of Western Civilization and the birthplace of democracy.
Research Description:
The Athenians Project began back in the 1970s. The Athenians Project is now headed by Professor John S. Traill of the University of Toronto in the Classics Department. Under Professor Traill's leadership and by using modern technology, over a 100,000 entries have been digitized and maintained in an Empress Embedded Database . The database is used to search data in a variety of ways for further study. The entries includes Athenian citizens at home and abroad, slaves, resident aliens, and foreigners honored at Athens-all the known men and women of Athens from the beginning of alphabetic writing to the Byzantine period. Part of the data is made available to anyone via the Website Attica and on this website. The complete Athenians Project data is available in set of hardbound printed volumes titled "Persons of Ancient Athens". The second part is a relational database of Athenians data which is used to search data using a computer in a variety of ways for further study.

The Athenians Project We intend to extend this project in two ways:

(1) Determine the appropriate mechanism to illuminate and digitize a large number of "squeezes" (essentially rubbings) of ancient Greek writings and to catalogue what we have found. We have several thousand squeezes available to us. Squeezes are no longer legally obtainable as the Greek government wishes to preserve all their ancient artifacts. By appropriately scanning and illuminating these squeezes we will be able to catalogue and put them on a website for all humanities researchers to share. Currently these researchers must travel to specialized museums and libraries to study the squeezes.

(2) Construct an interactive map of ancient Athens for humanities researchers to query ancient Greek culture. They should be able to retrieve, group, spatially query the overall Athenians database via the interactive map of ancient Athens.

The squeezes are essentially white paper reliefs of ancient Greek writing. Digitizing them is problematic as they must be illuminated correctly to reveal the relief and, depending on how sophisticated we can be, pattern recognition must be applied to correctly identify the characters. In addition some characters are missing and computation and statistical linguistics techniques must be applied to fill in missing information.
John Traill
Faculty Researcher, University of Toronto
Xiangong An
Faculty Researcher, York University
Clark Yin
Undergraduate Student, Ryerson University
Ekawat Chaowicharat
PhD, Thailand
John Kornatowski
Empress Software
Srdjan Holovac
Empress Software