Periegesis: Pausanias’s works going digital

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Periegesis is a research project aiming to analyse from Pausanias’s work “Periegesis Hellados”(Description of Greece)the spatial (re)imagining of Greece, using digital tools to annotate the text and eventually create a visualise it with digital mapping tools.

©Manuscript of Pausanias’ Description of Greece Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana [Public domain]

Pausanias work serves for centuries as a guide through Greece with descriptions of places, objects and giving a thorough narrative of space and time.

 Humlab at Umeå University extracts heritage data by uploading Pausanias’s ten books to the local Umeå server’s Recogito ( to curate the document as a database with the digital conversion and rendering of the spatial narrative of greek monuments and artefacts. The annotation aims:

  • “identify different entities (places, people, or events) within the text;
  • trace the relations between places and objects in space;
  • and describe those relations as either topographic (a place in space, as Pausanias moves through the landscape), chronotopic (a place in time, as Pausanias moves through the history of a particular place/building/statue), or analogic (places compared, as Pausanias relates one place to another in a different part of the world).”

Digital cartography and geographic information systems are widely used in heritage management.  Digital mapping tools will visualise the annotated text with multi-layered spatial configurations, showing the landscape of Pausania’s Greece with ” the movement (and transformation) of places and peoples in the contested environment of individual places”,  and analyse their interactions over time. The research questions addressed:

  • “How does a study of movement and transformation as a dynamic,  geographic visualization diversify our understanding Hellenic space and  its people?
  • How do literary constructions of place and space, cultural memory and present time intersect?
  • How can we productively disrupt traditional cartographic  representation, so that geographical knowledge can be plotted and  explored through action, influence and memory rather than by topography  alone?
  • How do we build the literacies for reading such unfamiliar, experimental interfaces?”

Our take

Periegesis is an ambitious and unique project that will offer a fresh way of presenting heritage. Pausanias’s books have been the source for archaeologists and researchers as a guide to greek heritage and culture. Taking the existing narrative into a visual map will change the game of digital heritage maps, and be an inspiration for other literature on travel to be visualised. For example let’s imagine together, Plato’s Politeia as a visual journey (independently if Atlantis exists) or to a more contemporary or EM Forster’s guide to Alexandria.

I want to learn more:


Get an inside look to their process within Virtual Heritage: A Guide or their Publications

Coding for the Many, Transforming Knowledge for All: Annotating Digital Documents

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