Casco Bay Assyriological Institute: Digital Map

The Casco Bay Assyriological Institute

The Digital Map of the Ancient Near East

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The Digital Map of the Ancient Near East is a cooperative endeavor of the Casco Bay Assyriological Institute and the State Archives of Assyria Project with the help of the Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients. It derives initially from two separate but almost simultaneous precursors: a map prepared by Simo Parpola for the State Archives of Assyria Project in April, 1987, and a map prepared by Michael Porter for Barbara Porter's book Images, Power, and Politics. The projects converged around the "Assyria 1995" conference in Helsinki in the fall of 1995.

In 1995 and into 1996 a specification was articulated which still guides the development of this project. In brief, the goal is to allow the production of paper maps as required, to let the map on a computer serve as a visual index into a database of locations and bibliography, and to allow computerized topological analysis of any data that can be linked to geographic locations.

The toponym database is built from the respective databases of the State Archives of Assyria Project, the Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia Project, and the Tübinger Atlas; the intent is to have an exhaustive list of Neo-Assyrian toponyms. At present, the database holds nearly 3,000 toponyms, of which some 700 have been linked to specific locations and are shown on the map. The database links (of course) toponyms to physical locations, but it also links those connections to bibliography; it shows, in other words, not only what we know but how we know it.

The Helsinki Atlas of the Near East in the Neo-Assyrian Period, published in July, 2001, is a first precipitate of this project.
Work is now underway to expand coverage from the Neo-Assyrian period, starting with the Old Babylonian period.

The principal compilers of the Digital Map are:

Dr. Michael Porter, of the Casco Bay Assyriological Institute
Prof. Simo Parpola, of the State Archives of Assyria Project

  • Conferences
  • Publications
  • The Digital Map of the Ancient Near East
  • Links of Interest

  • First published August, 2000.
    These pages prepared and maintained by Michael Porter



    To develop a geographical database that:
    1. Can be used on a PC and manipulated with reasonably inexpensive software;
    2. Does not require an extensive custom programming effort;
    3. Allows the production of paper maps (either in color or black-and-white) ranging in scale from 1:1,000,000 to 1:10,000,000 or above, and in size from about 36" x 48" to 4" x 6" (or as required for illustrations in books, articles, etc.);
    4. Allows the inclusion of non-graphic data such as population, dates, bibliography, evidence for location, etc.
    5. Allows manipulation of data (presumably by computer) in other than visual ways (e.g. which points of a given data set fall within 35 kilometers of the Tigris River?, or how long is the road from Nineveh to Arbela?);
    6. Allows the inclusion of data sets from any source, provided only that these are geo-referenced þ that each item, place, or inflection point on a road is tagged with its latitude and longitude.
    7. Allows the future possibility of graphic access to the non-graphic parts of the database, i.e., allows that a user, looking at the map in AutoCAD, could click on (say) a city and retrieve such data as are available in a 'text box.'
    8. Allows the possibility of future expansion into an automated mapping program (this is a stretch, but it is a direction the computerized cartography world is going, and one day it might be possible (perhaps even for a specific class) to instruct a PC to produce a map of the Assyrian Empire in 725 and get a plot on a laser printer with places labeled in an appropriate type size, etc.).
    9. NOTE that there is no mention of 'definitive' or 'unique' in these objectives; if there are three possible locations for a given city, for example, the structure must be able to accommodate them all, and similarly, if there is more than one name for a given location we expect to handle that, as well.