Ancient MakerSpaces

Saturday January 7, 2017 8:30am - 4:00pm

Sheraton Centre Toronto VIP Room

An all-day Digital Classics workshop featuring presentations, demonstrations, papers, and a concluding panel.


Almost all research, teaching, and scholarly communication in ancient studies today bears the imprint of digital technology in some way, yet the growing number of projects and the rapid rate of technological development present a distinct challenge for scholars who are interested in taking advantage of advances in the digital humanities.

This workshop is a space for students and scholars to interact with a variety of digital techniques and digital projects of broad application, providing participants the opportunity to engage in hands-on, peer-based learning.

Experienced digital humanists from various disciplines within ancient studies have developed demonstration curricula and will coordinate teams of trained demonstrators for each workshop station.The emphasis will be on learning to do things of immediate utility to scholarship and pedagogy. The workshop is comprised of six demonstrations; together they will present techniques and projects dedicated to:

  • mapping
  • 3D modeling
  • text tagging, annotating, searching, and editing
  • intertext discovery in Latin and Greek
  • ancient literary manuscripts
  • graffiti
  • epigraphy

We will also present two showcases that exploit new computational and digital methods for research and pedagogy in traditional areas of interest, e.g., ancient history and the reception of classical drama. Finally, there will be a panel discussion at the end of the workshop dedicated to discussing issues related to the use of new digital technologies in research, teaching, and scholarly communication.


  • 8:30-9:00am

    Paper: T. Beasley ‘Visualizing Networks in the Ancient Mediterranean’

  • 9:10-9:50am

    Workshop: R. Ast ‘Digital Corpus of Literary Papyri’

  • 9:55-10:45am

    Workshop: R. Benefiel ‘Ancient Graffiti Project’

  • 10:50-11:35am

    Workshop: S. Heath ‘Make Your Own 3D Models’

  • 11:40am-12:25pm

    Workshop: R. Horne ‘Make Your Own Map’

  • 12:30-1:00pm

    Paper: P. Chaudhuri & J. Dexter ‘Phylogenetic profiling and the reception of classical drama’

  • 1:10-1:55pm

    Workshop: J. Gawley ‘Intertext Mining With Tesserae’

  • 2:00-2:45pm

    Workshop: B. Almas ‘Perseids: Infrastructure for Research and Collaboration’

  • 3:00-4:00pm

    Panel: ‘State of Digital Classics’



Paper: Visualizing Networks in the Ancient Mediterranean

Thomas Beasley (Bucknell U. / Visualizing Networks in the Ancient Mediterranean)

Visualizing Networks in the Ancient Mediterranean is a web-based tool that makes it possible to view dynamic mappings of ancient networks and to explore the primary evidence on which those mappings are based. By entering a given network center (e.g., Athens), type (e.g., alliance), date (e.g., 454 BCE) and extent (e.g., the Chalcidice), users are able to generate a visualization of their desired network (e.g., Athens’ allies in northern Greece in the mid-5th century). Visualizing Networks also features a time slider, so that network mappings can be viewed diachronically as well as synchronically. And since users can overlay networks on top of each other, the website also makes it possible to trace the evolution of multiple networks through time, such as the extent of both the Peloponnesian League and the Athenian Empire over the course of the 5th century BCE.

In addition to generating network mappings, Visualizing Networks also exposes the primary evidence that underlies each network. Once a given network has been visualized, the user may click on any link between two nodes to see a list of the primary evidence, (literary, numismatic, epigraphical and material) on which that link is based. Thus if users click on a link between Athens and Thasos, they are presented with the relevant chapters of Thucydides as well as the Athenian Tribute Lists. For evidence which has been digitized and made available online, the user is provided with a link to the relevant webpage. By knitting together textual and material evidence in this way, Visualizing Networks aims to be a resource for scholars and students alike.


Workshop: Digital Corpus of Literary Papyri

Rodney Ast (U. of Heidelberg/ Digital Corpus of Literary Papyri)

Papyri.info—now with ancient literary manuscripts! Learn how to use, search, submit, and edit content in the Digital Corpus of Literary Papyri. The DCLP has been building on the tools of the Integrating Digital Papyrology project to create a database of texts, metadata, and translations for the ancient papyrus manuscripts of Greek and Latin literary and semi-literary texts. Based at the University of Heidelberg and the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (NYU), the project works closely with the University of Würzburg, the Leuven Database of Ancient Books (LDAB), Trismegistos, the Parma Medical Project, the Herculaneum Project in Naples, and the Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing.


Workshop: Ancient Graffiti Project

Rebecca Benefiel (Washington & Lee U.), Holly Sypniewski (Millsaps Coll.), Jacqueline DiBiasie Sammons (Sewanee: U. of the South), Kyle Helms (Creighton U.), Erika Zimmermann Damer (U. of Richmond)

Come learn about The Ancient Graffiti Project, which provides a digital resource for studying the handwritten wall-inscriptions of Herculaneum and Pompeii, with interactive maps and a number of search options that supplement traditional text-based searching. We will also discuss how to find ancient inscriptions in EAGLE (the Europeana network of Ancient Greek and Latin Epigraphy) and provide tips for using the EAGLE search engine.


Workshop: Make Your Own 3D Models

Sebastian Heath (Institute for the Study of the Ancient World / NYU)

Make your own or make them your own. I'll describe two approaches to working with 3D models. Come with the 30-day demo of Agisoft Photoscan installed and running on your computer and we'll walk through how to make 3D models. I'll provide sets of photographs from Rome and Ostia that you can work with, or bring your own pics. I'll also show how to download 3D models, upload them to Sketchfab, and add annotations. You can use a model you made with Photoscan or download models that the British Museum has made available. It will be useful to have an account on Sketchfab, though signing up is a quick process and you do that during the session.


Workshop: Make Your Own Map

Ryan Horne (U. of North Carolina)

The make-a-map workshop is a broad introduction to electronic resources for research and pedagogy on ancient geography. We discuss the Pleiades, Pelagios, and the Big Ancient Mediterranean projects, and we will create maps using the Ancient World Mapping Center’s Antiquity À-la-carte application. In addition, the workshop will also demonstrate how to use GeoNames and OpenStreetMap to discover geospatial data, and will introduce users to powerful GIS desktop software.


Paper: Phylogenetic Profiling and the Reception of Classical Drama

Pramit Chaudhuri (U. of Texas at Austin / Quantitative Criticism Lab) & Joseph Dexter (Harvard University / Quantitative Criticism Lab)

Recent developments in reception studies, world literature, and the digital humanities have made effective use of enlarged scale in posing and answering new research questions. The continuously expanding database of the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama (APGRD; represented in Macintosh et al. 2005), the encompassing of substantial non-western material in comparative literary studies (Damrosch 2003), and the inclusion of vast quantities of non-canonical works enabled by text digitisation (Moretti 2009, Barker and Terras 2016, Long and So 2016) collectively entail new forms of data gathering and visual presentation, which in turn open new hermeneutic horizons.

This paper draws inspiration from computational biology to offer a new method of organising, visualising, and interpreting the reception histories of literary works, focusing on classical drama. We repurpose a technique known as phylogenetic profiling to chart the evolution of Plautus’ Amphitryon through a sample of 22 adaptations ranging from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. The paper describes the new methodology, presents resulting analyses about the treatment of dramatic characters across the tradition, and discusses implications for the practice of classical reception studies. To demonstrate the scalability of the approach, we conclude by briefly describing a similar profile of Sophocles’ Antigone, which incorporates 129 adaptations spanning four continents.

Phylogenetic profiling is a standard technique in computational biology used to summarise large evolutionary histories (Pellegrini et al. 1999, Pagliarini et al. 2008). A typical phylogenetic profile is a binary matrix (i.e., the value of every entry is either “0” or “1”) indicating the presence or absence of genes across a large number of evolutionarily separated organisms. An attractive and intuitive visualisation can be constructed by drawing a rectangle (with the m genes written along one side and the n organisms along the other) and colouring each of the m x n tiles inside the rectangle black or white according to its binary value. In biology, phylogenetic profiles have applications beyond visualisation. Of particular interest, phylogenetic profiles can be used to infer functional similarities between genes on the basis of their shared presence in a set of organisms. In our application of the concept, each text in the reception tradition is treated as an organism, for which we determine the binary presence or absence of a macroscopic component (such as a character or scene). These phylogenetic profiles can then be used to identify patterns of influence and related groups of adaptations.

Our methodology combines the compilation of character lists for each adaptation with a novel graphical representation of the data to highlight clear trends across time in the use of minor characters and anomalous treatments of major characters. Furthermore, when cross-referenced with the geographical locus of the adaptation, the phylogenetic profile indicates those trends that are local and those that are more universal. The phylogenetic mapping of synchronic and diachronic trends across multiple regions goes some way towards addressing a criticism of reception studies for privileging national traditions at the expense of larger frames of comparison (Marshall 2006).

The profile of the Amphitryon highlights especially influential and anomalous adaptations. Molière’s omission of Blepharo, for instance, leads to his complete erasure from the subsequent tradition. This effect supports the standard view of Molière as the most influential post-classical treatment of the myth (Shero 1956, Margotton and Huby-Gilson 2010). Innovations need not be inherited from a single influential source: the addition of Juno is a popular innovation and occurs in three geographically separated clusters of productions (Heywood in England, de Rotrou in France, and da Silva and de Canizares on the Iberian peninsula). Certain innovations are highly specific to the adaptation and therefore do not provide a compelling model for other authors. The English farce Jack Juggler, for example, is the sole production to omit Jupiter - a radical break from the Plautine original and a counterintuitive element in a tradition that places great emphasis on the presence of Jupiter on stage.


Workshop: Intertext Mining With Tesserae

James Gawley (U. at Buffalo / Tesserae), Caitlin Diddams (U. at Buffalo / Tesserae)

The Tesserae Project is a web-based textual search tool that helps researchers discover allusions and explore literary influence. Its searchable corpus includes prose and poetry in Latin, English, and Ancient Greek. Users can discover connections between texts based on shared words, shared sound patterns, and synonyms. Cross-language searching is possible based on Latin synonyms for Greek words.


Workshop: Perseids: Infrastructure for Research and Collaboration

Bridget Almas (Perseus Digital Library / Perseids), Marie-Claire Beaulieu (Tufts U. / Perseids), Timothy Buckingham (Tufts U. / Perseids)

The Perseids platform allows students and scholars to collaborate on digital editions and annotations in an integrated online environment. We will be demonstrating how to do three activities with our tools: treebanking texts, aligning texts and translations, and annotating social networks. We will demonstrate the basic use of the platform tools, and effective strategies for using them in the classroom, with added opportunities for hands on training with the interface.


Concluding Panel: State of Digital Classics

Moderator: Patrick J. Burns (Institute for the Study of the Ancient World / NYU)
Panelists: Bridget Almas (Perseus Digital Library / Perseids), Neil Bernstein (Ohio U.), Sarah Bond (U. of Iowa)

As mentioned in the introduction, all aspects of ancient world study at this point bear "the imprint of digital technology." While this has brought about access to the kinds of cutting-edge research tools and resources that are showcased at Ancient MakerSpaces, it has not been without challenges. We have gathered together a diverse panel of digital practioners in ancient world study, whose interests range from digital development and infrastructure to publication of digital critical editions and other online texts to quantitative research in Classics to the use of social media for outreach and related topics. Our panel will discuss these issues as well as the general state (and future) of digital work in Classics.


If you are looking for more information about Ancient MakerSpaces, please send an email to the organizers here.