Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mapping the Realm

Carved in the beginning of the 3rd cent. CE, the large marble plan of Rome the Forma Urbis Romae,depicted in astounding detail the ground plan of all architectural features in the ancient city.

The map (measuring ca. 18.10 x 13 meters or ca. 60 x 43 feet) was incised onto marble slabs that hung on a wall of a grand room (aula) in the Templum Pacis in Rome. Time, and the need for marble as a building material, gradually destroyed the Plan. Today, only 1,186 pieces, or 10-15%, of this gargantuan city map exist.

Map page.

The map was remarkably accurate but researchers looking for new sites to excavate in Rome had only managed to fit back together a few of the pieces. A Stanford University computer program is now being used to aid restoration.

The Stanford Digital Forma Urbis Romae Project is now being used to aid restoration. And tries to solve an almost greater puzzle than the Forma Urbis itself - its function. There is no comparative material, literature or inscriptions from antiquity that might shed some light on this problem, nor has the function of the room in the Templum Pacis where the Plan hung, been clearly understood.

Most scholars believe that the aula in which the map hung was the office of the urban prefect, and that the map had a utilitarian purpose, functioning either as a locator map or as a cadastral map (recording land ownership) of Rome. They base their arguments on the incredible detail and accuracy of the map, which must have been the result of real land surveys, and on the scale of 1:240 which is the common scale used in Roman map making.

_ _ _ _ _

‘Mapping the realm’ is a project funded by the British Academy to create an interactive online version of the celebrated medieval ‘Gough Map’ (also known as The Bodleian Map, is the oldest surviving road map of Great Britain, dating from around 1360.

pen, ink and coloured washes on two skins of vellum, the map's dimensions measure 115 x 56cm.

The identity of the map-maker is unknown, the clues to its accurate dating based on historical changes of place name and studies of the hand used to inscribe those names onto the map.

Although the map is undated, clues are given by certain features, such as the town of Sheppey which changed its name to Queenborough in 1366, but is still marked as Sheppey on the map, whilst paleographic evidence suggests the mid- to late fourteenth century.

The project seeks to find out more about this enigmatic map. Using a scan of the original, undertaken by DigiData Technologies, the Gough Map has been digitised and analysed at the School of Geography at Queen’s using a Geographical Information System (GIS). GIS makes it possible to study the map’s content and assess how it was made, who made it, and what it was made for – all questions yet to be resolved. The map has also been made interactive. via Mapping the Medieval Urban Landscape

No comments: