Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Trove of Precise Locations in Bronze Age Cyprus



You are welcome, Sir, to Cyprus.  Goats and Monkeys!
Othello, iv, 1


Recently I’ve been adding locations in Cyprus to the Mycenaean Atlas Project.  From van Wijngaarden[1] I’ve derived a list of some 90 places where Mycenaean ceramics have been found.  I learn, somewhat to my surprise, that there is no definite evidence of Mycenaean settlement or colonization on Cyprus.  There is, of course, no shortage of papers that claim as much.[2]


Bronze Age sites in Andreou [2014]


The purpose of this post is to share with my readers a resource that turned up unexpectedly while reading about this island.  In Andreou’s study of Bronze Age Cyprus there is an appendix of more than 180 BA archaeological sites on Cyprus with their exact positions.[3]  This is a veritable treasure trove and although she presents her position data in a not-very-friendly form of UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator)[4]  in about twenty minutes I was able to take her entire list, establish a file, and convert it with a UTM to DMS converter.  I used this conversion site

The result was a glorious .kml file, suitable for opening in Google Earth, that you can safely pick up from my Google Drive account here. 

Kalavasos Valley according to Andreou [2014].


If you prefer this information in a comma separated file (.csv) you can download it from Google Drive here.

How good is her data?  Every measurement contains error.  So I did a bit of checking.  I do know where Kalavasos-Tenda is so I looked at her answer for that location:

Kalavasos-Tenda.
Kalavasos-Tenda is a Neolithic site in the Kalavasos valley in southern Cyprus.  The orange dot in the above photo is from my Features table.  Its position is 34.752469° N, 33.303370° E.  Dr. Andreou's location is the purple push pin.  That pin is about 10 meters from the closest edge of the 'tent'.  That distance of 10 meters is, as far as I'm concerned, more than acceptable in work of this kind.


Dr. Andreou’s data was very helpful for confirming my location for Erimi-Kafkalla.  

First let’s look at a sketch map.[5]



Erimi-Kafkalla is a large early BA settlement and necropolis in southern Cyprus.[6]  I make its position to be here: 34.688212° N, 32.916350° E. 

Now let’s look at it in Google Earth here.



The water tank is in the right position although there are two rather than Swiny's one.  The altitudes match; I have marked one of the places where Google Earth makes it to be 120 m. altitude.  The informal road to the west of the tank is now paved and what appears to be a large freeway at the bottom is new.  You can even make out the scatter of tombs which is so visible in Swiny's sketch map.

In this picture taken from Google Earth the blue dot is my position and the purple push pin is Dr. Andreou’s position.  She has placed Erimi-Kafkalla at 34.688086° N, 32.916886° E which is spot on and confirms my initial placement.


Her position for the Bronze Age Cypriot site at Erimi Laonin tou Porakou is less happy.  She has put it at 34.728969° N, 32.925616° E which is 1600 m. distant from the closest part of that site.


In the picture above we can see the situation.  Erimi-Laonin is positioned on a cliff to the left side (east) of the Kouris river.[7]  It is actually located on the same Kouris river and just to the north of Erimi-Kafkalla which was discussed above.  I have marked the position ( 34.711862° N, 32.923202° E) of Laonin as 'F2892'.  Her position would place it just to the east of the Kouris Dam which is not a helpful location for finding it.

Perhaps the biggest difference in Dr. Andreou's measurements is in respect to Maa Palaeokastro.  Let's look at the peninsula on which it sits.







In the 12 C BC the whole peninsula is thought to have been the site of a settlement.  The digs that have taken place there are best seen in the site that I've marked.  In the picture above we also see the hilariously named 'Museum of the Mycenaean Colonisation of Cyprus' which is shaped like an arrow in order to indicate the direction from which the first (Mycenaean) colonizers came.(!)[8]

Dr. Andreou's instincts have failed her just this once because she places the location of Maa at Paphos, as we see in the next photograph. Her location for Maa is 10+ km. from its real location which is at  34.853992° E, 32.363368° N.





Nevertheless, Dr. Andreou's points are still very valuable, particularly for the Kalavasos Valley on southern Cyprus which is an area that she seems to know best.  She has performed a very great service for anyone interested in prehistoric Cyprus.

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I'll be going on vacation to Hawaii until April 5, 2017.  I'll be silent until then.  Perhaps, for a change of pace, I'll put up some pictures of Hawaii.

Anyone who would like to have a copy of the MAP database can send an e-mail to bobconsoli 'at' gmail.com or leave a comment on any of my posts.  To run the MAP database requires a SQL server running on your desktop computer.   MySQL is such a server and it is powerful, industry-standard, and free.  

I can and will make .kml or .kmz files, which can be opened directly in Google Earth, available to those who would like them.  
I can also create .csv files for people who would like to import Mycenaean Atlas Project data into Google Earth but would like it in tabular form.
Those who do not have a SQL server but would like the full database in .pdf form can have that for the asking.

If you like these posts then please follow me on Twitter (Squinchpix) or on Google+   (Robert Consoli)

Facebook?  Sorry.I.just.can't.

Footnotes

[1] van Wijngaarden [2002], 323 ff.

[2] The authoritative discussion of this topic is in Knapp [2013], 451 ff.  For the role that Cyprus plays in the Greek historical imagination see Michael [2005] passim.  Specifically see her remarks on Maa Palaeokastro beginning on p. 127.

[3] Andreou [2014], Appendix 2, pp. 428-437


[4]  For once Wikipedia is good for something.  See their description of UTM here

[5] Swiny [1979b], fig. 72.

[6] Swiny [1979a] 251 ff.

[7] For a useful discussion of the Italian effort there see this.

[8] Discussed in Michael [2005], 127 ff.


Bibliography

Andreou [2014]:  Andreou, Georgia-Marina, Traversing Space: Landscape and Identity in Bronze Age Cyprus, Ph.D. dissertation submitted to School of History, Classics and Archaeology, The University of Edinburgh, 2014.  Online here.

Knapp [2013]:  Knapp, A. Bernard.  The Archaeology of Cyprus; From Earliest Prehistory throught the Bronze Age.  Cambridge University Press.  2013.  ISBN: 978-0521723473

Michael [2005]: Michael, Angela Stella.  Making Histories: Nationalism, Colonialism and the Uses of the Past on Cyprus.  Thesis submitted for Ph.D., University of Glasgow.  June 2005.  Online here

Swiny [1979a]:  Swiny, Stuart. Southern Cyprus, 2000-1500 B.C.; Vol  I, Text.  Ph.D. thesis.  Institute of Archaeology,  University of London. 1979.

Swiny [1979b]: Swiny, Stuart. Southern Cyprus, 2000-1500 B.C.; Vol II, Figures. Ph.D. thesis. Institute of Archaeology, University of London. 1979.

van Wijngaarden [2002]: van Wijngaarden, G.,  Use and Appreciation of Mycenaean Pottery in the Levant, Cyprus and Italy (ca. 1600 - 1200 BC).  Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and Amsterdam University Press. 2002.  Online (more or less) here

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The GIS and the Front End



What is a geographic information system (or GIS)?   In its simplest form a GIS is a software package meant to facilitate the creation and display of maps along with analysis and display of any data that includes lat/lon pairs. 

There are some critical components in a GIS.  A database, for example, along with a ‘front-end’.  O.k. so what is a ‘front end’?  A ‘front-end’ is a software package that interfaces to a database and makes it possible to retrieve data and convert it into a map.  The second thing a ‘front-end’ must do is allow the user to specify geographical points that then get stored in the database for later retrieval/mapping.  In other words a front-end acts to gather and store data in a DB and it also gets data from the DB and displays it as a map or as tables. That’s really all there is to it.

And a GIS can be surprisingly simple.  Google Earth makes a respectable ‘front-end’ but you need to use it in conjunction with a database in order to have anything like full ‘GIS’ functionality. So that although the two parts, Google Earth and The Database, are separate and not automatically interconnecting, you can still use them together even though you store what you retrieve from the database as an intermediate flat file before you then import it into Google Earth.  It looks like this:


I’ve numbered the arcs here for easy reference.  In step 1 we get a lat/lon pair from Google Earth and we attach it to a place name and id with some .sql query like this:

insert into site (
place_key,
name,
lat,
lon,
region)
values (
‘C9999’,
‘Tholos’,
36.7654,
22.4536,
‘Messenia’);

In step 2 we take that .sql statement and enter it into the database.
We repeat steps 1 and 2 as often as we need to in order to generate a database of place marks.  When that’s done we have a table (the ‘site’ table in this case) which holds our data and which was derived from Google Earth. 

Later we want to come back and display the site table on a map.  In step 3 we execute the following query in the database:

select * from site;

…And we save the result as a comma-separated file (or .csv).  A good database, such as MySQL, will allow you to do this. 
In step 4 we import the .csv into Google Earth using GE’s ‘import’ feature (not the ‘open’ feature).  Importing into Google Earth is described here.

And the result is that you now have your data displayed on a map.  Of course you can modify the site table in the meantime, amplify it from different sources, etc., etc.

Once the data is displayed in Google Earth you can also save it as a .kml (.kmz is a .kml in zip-file form).  The .kml is a very useful file type since most GIS products support it.  That deserves a modified picture:




Here, in Step 5, I show the Google Earth capability of exporting either .kml or .kmz files.

And although this method seems a little clunky (because of the hand derivation of .sql statements in step 1 or the intermediate .csv file in steps 3-4) it’s still a perfectly reasonable way to work and, in fact, all the Mycenaean Atlas Project so far, thousands of points, has been implemented in just this way.    Why does this work?  It works because the work of finding points can be very much greater than the relatively trivial operations of hand-entering them into a database.  As long as a project is small or the data entry is a small part of the total cost we don’t need anything more elaborate.


Another method of extracting information from the database (besides extracting flat files from it) is to write custom software for that purpose.  For example, in the Mycenaean Atlas Project the database contains lots of material that you wouldn’t ordinarily display on a map, like bibliographic information.  And yet the bibliographic material supports the rest of the database; it is the warrant, in a sense, for the data’s accuracy.  For that type of material you’d want to generate, not a map, but a report.  For that purpose you could just use sql:

select * from fnb where pk = ‘C237’;   // this query would return bibliographic citations for site ‘C237’.

And sql can be made very elaborate and, ordinarily, .sql queries can work for this purpose perfectly well.

But let’s say that you want to dump, in a nicely formatted form (not just a table), all the bibliographic material and show its connections to the rest of the DB.  For that purpose simple sql might not do so well.  

 For writing a fancy report you need to write a program.  I expand our diagram to show that possibility.



Here I show a software interface connecting to the database and generating (in arc 6) a text report of some kind.  There are several good software interpreters that make connecting to the DB simple.  The PHP language is a reasonable choice.  It is very widely used in Internet applications to serve a site’s online database.  In fact, if we were to put the Mycenaean Atlas Project online the Text Report attached to arc 6 would actually consist of .html pages.  To download your free, widely-used, standard version of PHP just click here


The Mycenaean Atlas Project actually does use a couple of self-developed programs in PHP in order to generate full reports of nearly the entire contents of the database.  (These reports are in .pdf form, and they're yours for the asking).  The first is a complete report on all the Bronze Age sites; the second is a complete dump of the Features table.  (The Features table consists of non-Bronze Age sites which are mentioned in the gazetteer and other literature and which you need to know about in order to make sense of that literature.  ‘Features’ include towns, signs, churches, monasteries, regions, chapels, streams, bridges, etc. etc.)  

By way of parenthesis there is a .php class that allows you to build .pdfs directly.  Find it described here.  

What I've shown so far is a little over-elaborate. 

To simplify things we can get ourselves a front-end that can interface directly to the database and by eliminating the hand written .sql statements as well as the intermediate .csv file.  After all, once we’ve finished with hand-created .sql files and db-generated .csv files we don’t want them hanging around.  The Truth Model is in the Database and in the Database only.  The .sql and .csv files must be trashed once they’re used so as not to lead to confusion.

What front-end interfaces directly to the DB?

A correspondent of mine from Cambridge, England, shares that he is working on a project to map Bronze Age burial sites using QGIS as his Geographic Information System.


What is QGIS?  QGIS is a genuine, full-featured GIS that replaces nearly all the complicated stuff I’ve presented so far.  I’ll discuss it soon in a separate blog post.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anyone who would like to have a copy of the MAP database can send an e-mail to bobconsoli 'at' gmail.com or leave a comment on any of my posts.  To run the MAP database requires a SQL server running on your desktop computer.   MySQL is such a server and it is powerful, industry-standard, and free.  

I can and will make .kml or .kmz files, which can be opened directly in Google Earth, available to those who would like them.  
I can also create .csv files for people who would like to import Mycenaean Atlas Project data into Google Earth but would like it in tabular form.
Those who do not have a SQL server but would like the full database in .pdf form can have that for the asking.

If you like these posts then please follow me on Twitter (Squinchpix) or on Google+   (Robert Consoli)

Facebook?  Sorry.I.just.can't.