Visualising data in the event-space: Hannibal’s journey across the Alps
This project is an investigation into the possibility of integrating temporal and spatial data using GIS techniques. The subject of enquiry is Hannibal’s journey from Carthage across the Alps into Italy in 218 BC. The fact of his achievement is not seriously disputed but how he managed this feat with his huge entourage of over 40,000 soldiers, hundreds of pack animals and 37 elephants has intrigued archaeologists and historians ever since. The project will focus on the last part of the journey ‘across the alps’.
A research challenge is that there is no archaeological evidence as such. What evidence there is includes locational data from near contemporary and classical Roman sources, written accounts – maps, itineraries, plans – from geo-archaeologists and others who have sought to trace Hannibal’s precise journey and miscellaneous data such as scientific analysis of hydrocarbon fragments distribution.
The project seeks to integrate the available, sometimes conflicting data; to use modern technology to enable the visualisation of geo-spatial patterns within a chronological and cultural context. It further asks if GIS can present ‘absence’ as well as presence when used as a tool of interpretive archaeology.
Why it is important
GIS is an appropriate tool for prediction as well as analysis. Hannibal’s journey is an ideal case to suggest where archaeological excavation might yield results. In a wider context, Hannibal’s journey represents a crucial juncture of history.
- Literature review of Hannibal’s journey; GIS-Archaeology theories;
- Evaluation of (up to two) archaeological GIS presentation formats in terms of design; data presentation; information retrieval; and documentation.
- Applied use of appropriate GIS software, probably Google Earth to mapping the data.
- Map analysis – apparently the Alps have not changed significantly in thousands of years but ancient maps will be studied for contextual information.
Chronology and history
Polybius History book 3, pp 50-60, (c 215 BC)
Livy History XXI-XXXIX (c 1 BC).
Maps and journeys
Maps: Geographic datasets, ancient and contemporary maps, e.g. Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World.
Patrick Hunt Alpine Archaeology (2007)
John Prevas Hannibal Crosses the Alps (1999),
M. Melvin, Expedition Alpine Elephant, a report on the 1979 Cambridge Hannibal Expedition (1980)
Dennis Proctor, Hannibal’s March in History (1971)
Gavin de Beer, Alps and Elephants (1955)
Robert Ellis, Little Mont Ceris (1853), and other accounts of attempts
Interpreting Space: GIS and Archaeology, edited By Kathleen M.S. Allen, Stanton W. Green, Ezra B. W. Zubrow (1990)
James Conolly, Mark Lake, Geographical information systems in archaeology (2006)
The rival routes
1. Col du Petit Saint Bernard
2. Mont Cenis
3. Col du Clapier
4. Col du Montgenèvre
5. Col de la Croix
6. Col de la Traversette
The final project is now online here http://annogidi.vndv.com/