The CART-ography Project: Cataloguing Ancient Routes and Travels in the Mani Peninsula

Chelsea Gardner (Hawai’i) and Rebecca Seifried (IMS-FORTH)

Digital Classicist London seminar 2019

Friday June 7th at 16:30, in room G34, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Livecast at Digital Classicist London YouTube channel.

The CART-ography Project (Cataloguing Ancient Routes and Travels in the Mani Peninsula) is a new multidisciplinary archaeological and Digital Humanities research initiative that documents and analyzes the routes of early explorers to the Mani peninsula in southern Lakonia, Greece. The goal of this project is to assess the value of travelers’ records in reconstructing archaeological landscapes. In this paper, the authors present their methodology and preliminary results of the project: first, how they are using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to reconstruct the routes taken by early travelers throughout the Mani peninsula, including Pausanias, Cyriacus of Ancona, Colonel Leake, and Patrick Leigh Fermor; and second, the goals for the 2019 fieldwork season.

Travelers’ accounts, whether written by ancient authors or modern-day adventurers, are useful sources of information about archaeological landscapes and ancient sites. These records allow us to track diachronic changes to major sites and regions, and they direct us to consider past pathways of movement, as determined through a series of factors, including the authors’ personal interests and incentives, the restrictions imposed by difficult topography, and other external political limitations that may have prevented travelers from visiting certain areas. Scholars acknowledge the shortcomings of these accounts—particularly the lack of scientific recording methods and imprecise details regarding site locations—and yet they often provide a glimpse into past landscapes that have been subsequently, and permanently, altered by modern infrastructure.

By employing GIS software to generate and compile routes to the Mani peninsula over the past two millennia and comparing the results to our own ground-truthing and fieldwork, we strive to answer two main questions: How reliable are ancient and modern travelers’ accounts for understanding a given archaeological landscape, and what value might they lend to our knowledge of the sites and areas that these travelers intentionally bypassed or avoided?