AVMAT mini project: Hannibal crosses the Alps

Visualising data in the event-space: Hannibal’s journey across the Alps

Research question/abstract

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.

Research Methodology

  • 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

Theoretical frameworks

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

February 2008

The final project is now online here http://annogidi.vndv.com/


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9 Responses to “AVMAT mini project: Hannibal crosses the Alps”

  1. Karl Johnson Says:


    Your blog is of extreme interest I am currently looking into this topic as a begining of an architectural project. I was wondering if I could get some information from you, or if you could point me the right direction.
    My email is cognative001@yahoo.com.

    Best Regards


  2. inpassim Says:

    Hello Karl, thanks for posting. I’ve finished my project and would glady send it to you. In the end I used Google earth and SIMILE timeline applications and discussed Web 2.0 techniques. I’ll email you more info. Best and good luck. Ann

  3. inpassim Says:

    I’ve uploaded the project to http://annieo.uuuq.com/avmat/

  4. manikandan.s Says:

    i m going to do the mini project in this year. wat would be the best fild in gis u suggest me to do. i m having a doubt in which field i wii do my project.please help me to do the project.

    • inpassim Says:

      Manikandan, what type of project do you need to do? And what applications or you going to use? And what ideas or subjects interest you?

  5. pere tiana Says:

    desearía saber si hay algún libro que explique detalladamente cuando Anibal atravesó los pirineos hacia Francia para pasarlos Alpes en la 2º guerra púnica contra Roma y como conseguirlo muchas gracias pere tiana

  6. inpassim Says:

    Hola Tiana!, He encontrado estas páginas web útiles (en ingles sfortunatament)



    [audio lecture] http://www.learnoutloud.com/Catalog/Science/Archaeology/Hannibal/25760

    1. Hunt, Patrick. Alpine Archaeology (New York, Ariel Books 2007)
    2. Prevas, John. Hannibal Crosses the Alps (Kent, Spellmount 1998)

    Por supuesto, usted debe leer los relatos originales del viaje,
    [Livy] http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/txt/ah/Livy/Livy21.html
    [Polybius] http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Polybius/3*.html

    Mi sitio web del proyecto está aquí: http://annieo.uuuq.com/avmat/

    Buena suerte Tiana!

  7. pere tiana Says:

    Estoy interesado en la ruta de Anibal al atravesar catalunya desde el Ebro hasta los pirineos muchas gracias

    • inpassim Says:

      Hello pere tiana, I do not have specific information about the route across Catalunya and my essay was a long time ago. Perhaps you can refer to the books websites and books I mentioned in response to your last email.

      Best wishes,


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