UH Researchers Release Digital Exploration of Ancient Syria
A digital humanities project featuring a dynamic presentation of ancient Syrian material culture is now available online.
The SYRIOS Project: Studying Urban Relationships and Identity Over Ancient Syria is a digital exhibit focusing on narratives of the Syrian capital city of Antioch-on-the-Orontes. The proof-of-concept release guides users through interactive stories of the region built from coins, texts, and other material culture.
Kristina Neumann, PhD, assistant professor of Roman/digital history, and Peggy Lindner, PhD, assistant professor of computer information systems at University of Houston, are leading a multi-year, interdisciplinary project that began as a study in visualizations from a database of 300,000+ coin finds. The researchers noted the topic drew attention in and outside of academia, and pursued an approach that holds implications for both scholarly and public interest, with the ultimate goal of preserving knowledge of the ancient Middle East through new digital methodologies, and facilitating public engagement with contemporary issues of Syrian identity and heritage.
In its first phase, the SYRIOS exhibit is the culmination of experiments in design, interactivity (such as animated text and parallax scrolling, 3D scans, digital visualizations, and virtual simulations), and usability. “Especially innovative is our sortable digital coin pile and our 3D annotated coin,” Neumann said. “We also go well beyond traditional online archives and catalogs by narrating ancient stories with coins, texts, and other artifacts from Syria.”
Users are able to view new research in the form of thematic narratives based on coin, archaeological, and textual evidence about political, economic, religious, and archaeological histories of Antioch; and explore coin evidence as pieces of art and as objects that move, including a series of Tableau maps presenting archaeological data, an illustrated Omeka catalog of all known types of coins minted at Antioch, and a dataset of coins excavated at Antioch, which users can download to explore their own applications of the material.
Future iterations of the exhibit will feature content and design enhancements, and expansion to include the histories and material culture of other cities within ancient Syria.
This project is made possible by funding from the UH Libraries Sponsored Projects program and by expertise from the Libraries’ Digital Research Services, Liaison Services, Special Collections, and Library Technology Services departments.