chronOntology: A time gazetteer with principles

Posted on 10 January 2017

Talk: Wolfgang Schmidle et al. (DAI), “chronOntology: A time gazetteer with principles”.


Date: Tuesday, 10 January 2017

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

Venue: DAI, Wiegandhaus, Podbielskiallee 69-71, D-14195 Berlin (map)


In the last years several web services emerged that manage and make accessible place gazetteers for the archaeologies and historical sciences. By using semantic technologies these gazetteers act as linked data hubs connecting multiple datasets of varying thematic focus and of different structural properties. Just as important as the geo-spatial properties of research objects are their temporal classifications. In this talk we describe a time gazetteer web service that assumes a role similar to that of place gazetteers but for temporal concepts and cultural periods.

We are developing a system for storing, managing, mapping and making accessible descriptions of temporal concepts. At the core is a rich semantic modeling of various existing terminological systems for cultural periods using a data model based on CIDOC CRM and Doerr et al. (2006). As usual, a dataset describing a temporal term is not identified by its name, but a unique ID. Unlike existing time gazetteers such as PeriodO, however, the definition of a temporal term is clearly distinguished from any dating information about the term. Only the definition determines whether we are talking about the same thing, and temporal information is meaningful only in connection with the definition. This distinction makes it easier to handle and resolve conflicting information. In addition, each defined temporal term is associated with a fixed “spacetime volume”, i.e. the area in space and time where it happened, regardless of what we actually know about it. Any given spatial and temporal information approximates this spacetime volume.

The system is designed to accommodate large amounts of data with varying degrees of data quality and completeness and all typical information about temporal terms. We attempt to model the semantics of the terms explicitly as far as they can be inferred from the source. If no definition is given, we add at least a period type, for example “political” or “style”. We have already imported more than 6,000 terms in this way, mainly from electronic sources but also from the secondary literature.

The data can be accessed either as linked data or via the project website, where the spatial and temporal extent of the data is visualized in timeline and map widgets. We are also developing widgets for analyzing the space-time relations in more depth.


Doerr, M., Kritsotaki, A. and Stead, S. (2006). Thesauri of Historical Periods – A Proposal for Standardization. Available at: paperlink/CIDOCpaper1_Doerr.pdf (Accessed: 27 July 2016)


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