Old World Trade Routes (OWTRAD):
Notation System

V. 2.5

Dr T. Matthew Ciolek,

Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies,
Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia

Document created: 7 Jul 1999. Last updated: 3 Dec 2000

This document describes notation used in data sets linked to the Old World Trade Routes (OWTRAD) pages.

|| OWTRAD Home Page || Research Rules || Notation System || Data sets || Gazetteer || Relevant Maps || Trade routes' notebook || Sources and Bibliography ||

work in progress - tmc

This version of the document supersedes recommendations of all earlier OWTRAD notations, including the pilot scheme first suggested in Ciolek, T.M. 2000. Digitising Data on Eurasian Trade Routes: An Experimental Notation System (www.ciolek.com/PAPERS/pnc-berkeley-02.html).

The OWTRAD notation system - introduction

This version of OWTRAD notation summarizes data about 22 variables. These are:

The OWTRAD notation system - example

The notation handles information about nodes, routes, and users and commodities and a number of other variables, including specialised meta-data ones. For instance, a brief expression referring to one of the lines drawn on a map entitled "The economic life of the Roman Empire" (Stone 1989:91), which forms a part of the "'Times' Atlas of World History":

Carthago,TN,Ostia,IT,nkn,romans,trd,sl,maj,A299,B000,C000,Ostia,d000dd,shp,t005d,m0200y,QC3,Stone 1989:90-91,P000,tmcXMEm0200_001a

identifies and describes

The OWTRAD notation system - format

The objectives of the notation presented below are three-fold. Firstly, it aims at extraction of standardised chunks of information from a large variety of sources. It creates a series of pigeon-holes, templates which can be easily filled with details for each pair of communication links. If a given item of information is not available, the notation uses a default value. Secondly, the notation aims at being a simple and versatile tool, one which can be used manually or as a part of ones' use of a typewriter or a computer keyboard. Thirdly, by using a standardised series of low ASCII (plain text) and comma delineated fields each of the data sets can be easily imported into a database and, importantly, shared and freely and quickly exchanged between scholars and their individual databases.

The following terminology intends to capture information originally expressed in verbal as well as graphic formats (remarks, descriptions, maps, plans, situational charts) and convert it into a simple, but still intelligible written format.

1,2,3 & 4. Departure/Arrival Nodes

Place identifiers

Variable names: NODE1, COUNTRY1, NODE2, COUNTRY2
Meaning: a node, place or other reference point in the terrain which identifies a beginning and end of a given length of road or other communication link.
Example: Arabia Eudaemon,YE : a place in contemporary Yemen, referred to by the source as 'Arabia Eudaemon'.
No of characters used: several chars.
Further details:


Directional and locational annotations are enclosed in () round brackets.

5. Frame (geographical context of the communication network)

Variable name: FRAME
Meaning: Role of the communication link within the context of other, longer and therefore more general links
Example: "Constantinople=Baltic Sea", a communication link which is a part of a route spanning the two reference points.
No of characters used: several chars.
The range of values:

6. Users' details

Variable name: WHO
Meaning: Ethnicity of the most numerous users of a given communication/transportation link.
Example: viking : Vikings.
No of characters used: 6 chars.
The range of values:

7. Usage details

Variable name: USES
Meaning: The primary function, or purpose of the link in question.
Example: plg : a route used by pilgrims.
No of characters used: 3 chars.
The range of values:

8. Type of the link

Variable name: TYPE
Meaning: Distinction between natural and artificial structures.
Example: rd : a beaten path, a road, a highway.
No of characters used: 2 chars.
The range of values:

9. Geographical detail of the link

Variable name: DETAIL
Meaning: Information about the layout, course of a particular link.
Example: along R.Seine : the communication link follows the course of the river Seine between staring and terminating node.
No of characters used: several chars.
The range of values:

10. Importance of the link

Variable name: ROLE
Meaning: Importance or the role of the link, as recorded by the source for the particular time-frame.
Example: loc : local communication link
No of characters used: 3 chars.
The range of values:

11,12,13. Commodities/Goods details

Variable names: GOODS1, GOODS2, GOODS3
Meaning: Main goods which are shipped along the link in question.
Example: A200,B270,C999 : a route used mainly for transport of the dry foodstuffs in bulk, but also alcoholic beverages, and construction material.
No of characters used: 3 times 4 chars each.

The first character indicates which of the transported commodities is the most important one, the next three identify the commodity itself.

Commodity/Goods - importance Commodity/Goods - contents The scheme used below roughly follows K. Polanyi's (1975:145-146) typology of the kinds of goods involved in trade.

The range of values:

Note: When working with PILGRIMAGE, MESSENGER, MILITARY etc routes i.e. "plg", "msg" and "mil" data, use the "001" ("not-applicable") value

14. Direction of the link

Variable name: DIR
Meaning: Information about the direction of flow of the listed commodities or travellers. For instance, medieaval pilgrims travelled from Paris to Tours to Ostabal to Santiago de Compostela, but they did not necessarily take the reverse route on the way back home.
Example: nkn (i.e. for a route linking a pair of nodes NNNN1 and NNNN2, there is no information on direction in which goods were transported.
No of characters used: several chars.
The range of values:

15. Distance, length of the link

Variable name: DIST
Meaning: Information of the physical dimension of the link.
Example: r017km : 17 kilometres, real measurement.
No of characters used: 1+3+2 chars.
The range of values:

16. Travel Mode

Variable name: TRAVMODE
Meaning: The means of transport
Example: wlk : walking.
No of characters used: 3 chars.
The range of values:

17. Travel Time

Variable name: TRAVTIME
Meaning: Time needed to travel a given stretch of distance.
Example: e008d : estimated measurement, 8 days.
No of characters used: 1+3+1 chars.
The range of values:

18. Chronological context

Variable name: WHEN
Meaning: Time or period when a given link was in use.
Example: m1410y : in 1410 CE.
No of characters used: 1+4+1 chars.
The range of values:

19. Data Quality Tag

Variable name: DATAQLTY
Meaning: Overall trustworthiness of the information in the opinion of the collator, a way to rank credibility and precision of various sources. Better data and better sources suggest that a given set of variables should be taken more seriously than one which is a less trustworthy.
Example: QA1 : information comes from a publication which gives ample (A) detail of its methodology and its own sources; the reported data pertain to a terrain which is under 100 kms across.
No of characters used: 3 chars.
The range of values:
  • Letter Q ('q' for 'quality'), followed by a 2 digit alphanumeric code

    Sources vary in terms of the amount of detail they provide about their data (see Table 3).
    Table 3
    Four levels of generality in scholarly and popular publications
    Level of                 Range of                      Type of
    generality              information                  publication
    1st        data + source + context + methodology	   research papers, journal articles
    2nd        data + source + context	                   monographs
    3rd        data + source  	                           overviews, text books
    4th        data 	                                   syntheses, maps, encyclopaedias
    							     [also, newspapers & propaganda]
    For further discussion of issues of information quality and reliability
    see Ciolek 1999.

    Hence the following scheme:

    At the same time, data vary in terms of the amount of detail their offer, that is, in terms of their granularity. Hence the following scheme: These seven values, if intersected, create a twelve-fold matrix
    				QA1 QA2 QA3 QA4
    				QB1 QB2 QB3 QB4
    				QC1 QC2 QC3 QC4
    In the above matrix lower values (i.e. A & 1), both for the sources and provided data, signal information of better quality. The coding scheme has a handy mnemonic function, the digit represents a number of zeros following a kilometer value for the overall size of the study area.

    20. Source of data

    Variable name: SRC
    Meaning: The publication from which information has been extracted. A short reference to the author's name, date and page of publication is given. The reference pertains to the bibliography associated with a given data set. Location of this bibliography is explicitly stated in the set's meta-data section.
    Example: Runciman 1978:184
    No of characters used: several chars.
    Further details: all bibliographical details are provided in the meta-data section of the data-set

    21. Data problems flag

    Variable name: PROBL
    Meaning: A marker indicating whether a particular record is known to contain errors, ambiguities, illogicalities, anachronisms and other complications.
    Example: P004
    No of characters used: 4 chars.
    Further details:

    22. Record and data-set identifier

    Variable name: DATAID
    Meaning: The name of the data set is the name of its file in a particular subdirectory.
    Example: pltXMEm0200_01a
    No of characters used: 3+12 or 13 chars.
    Further details: The above generate standardised records. Such records then need to be linked to information about the geographical coordinates (longitude and latitude values, expressed in decimal degrees) of nodes they are identified by. These values are obtained by consultation either with specific raw data and/or by looking up gazetteers listed in this site's section called OWTRAD Gazetteer (www.ciolek.com/OWTRAD/gazetteer-00.html)

    Return to OWTRAD home page.
    Maintainer: Dr T.Matthew Ciolek (tmciolek@ciolek.com)

    Copyright (c) 1999-2000 by T.Matthew Ciolek. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this document for non-commercial purposes as long as this Copyright notice and a link to this document, at the URL listed below, is included. Information about the uses of the "OWTRAD" material is requested. For commercial uses, please contact the author.

    URL http://www.ciolek.com/OWTRAD/notation.html

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