Standards for Networking Ancient Prosopographies

Posted on 09 December 2014

Talk: Gabriel Bodard and Faith Lawrence (King’s College London), “Standards for Networking Ancient Prosopographies: Data and Relation in Greco-Roman Names”.


Date: Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Time: starting at 17:00 c.t. (i.e. 17:15)

Venue: TOPOI Building Dahlem, Hittorfstraße 18 D-14195 Berlin (map)


SNAP:DRGN is an AHRC-funded project exploring the interlinking data collections of persons (prosopographies), names (onomastica) and person-like entities managed in heterogeneous systems and formats. This paper will explore the background to, and results of, the work.

Co-referencing is a known issue within the linked data world—how does a researcher or analyst determine whether two records refer to the same person or are related in some other way, and whether other related information refers to both people equally? The SNAP project looks to the many prosopographies and onomastica that already exist, even within the restricted domain of Greco-Roman antiquity, for whom the same questions of identity and provenance apply. These databases can be worked on without the concerns raised by modern social network accounts: there are not the ethical and privacy concerns of working with living people; the scale, while still massive, is more tractable; there is much more academic coherence within the data, which, diverse as it is, is produced by a discipline with well-established working practices.

Web and Linked data technologies offer ways to model and share this information; linking from references in primary texts to, and between, authoritative lists of persons and names. Starting with three large datasets from the classical world: the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names, an Oxford-based corpus of persons mentioned in ancient Greek texts; Trismegistos, a Leuven-run database of names and persons from Egyptian papyri; Prosopographia Imperii Romani, a series of printed books listing senators and other elites from the first three centuries of the Roman Empire, SNAP:DRGN aims to create a lightweight model to bring the data together. Other projects and datasets in the domain have volunteered their data to help verify the models and contribute material on ancient people to the collection.

Further funding will enable us to work on supporting research applications with the amalgamated graph: how search across persons can serve as a prosopographical research tool and lead to new knowledge, and how search taking advantage of the relationships in the graph can offer a crosswalk channel between bodies of overlapping or complementary data. We consider it essential to build harvesting services to take advantages of OAC annotations that point from texts and other sources to SNAP identifiers, so that the graph can serve as a discovery vector as well as an authority list. Future revisions of the data models will allow mechanisms for annotating person entities and other statements, expressing uncertainty, disagreement, and provenance. Infrastructure and optimisation of tooling is also a priority, since the scale of the triplestore strains our current hardware and software capabilities.

More speculatively, at this point, we intend to explore methods and approaching for enhancing the relationships in the dataset, identifying more co-references and proposing connections of various kinds (familial, contractual, co-appearance in text, extrapolated). These mechanisms might include Social Network Analysis, crowdsourcing, and RDF reasoning, and would be one of the most compelling arguments for the value of bringing together so many prosopographical datasets into a single RDF graph.


Or you can download the slides from here (1,7 MB).




Or you can just download the video files (.mp4): talk (579.2 MB) ; discussion (339.5 MB).