Wednesday, March 10, 2021

A Historical GIS of Nubia (1815-1822): Based on the William J. Bankes Archive

A Historical GIS of Nubia (1815-1822): Based on the William J. Bankes Archive

The project, in brief

The cross-disciplinary research project aimed to draft a reconstruction of ancient Nubia through the study of the Bankes Archive. For this purpose, a historical geographic information system (HGIS) is used to structure and present on a digital, multi-layered map information extracted from the Bankes’ documents, such as locations, relations, systems and interactions of the human communities. GIS is an excellent instrument to manage through digital maps what are conventionally named “geographical data” (positions, connections, interactions, paths) and “non-geographical data” (dates, frequency, events, goods traded, etc.).

William J. Bankes travelled in Egypt in the years 1815-1819 and then hired a number of artists to record almost all then-known archaeo­logical sites in Egypt and Nubia until 1822. Artists in his service produced an impressive amount of diaries, accounts, letters, maps, drawings, plans and landscape watercolours that are still unpublished. In the last two hundred years, many geo-human factors caused radical changes in these areas. In a landscape almost untouched for centuries, the signs of the interactions between the ancient Nubian human communities and the natural environment were much clearer in Bankes’ times than now.

The project was funded by the Dahlem Research School POINT Fellowship Program 2014-2016, Dahlem Humanities Center, Freie Universität Berlin, and was based at the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut (Historical Geography of the Ancient Mediterranean). PI of the project was Dr Daniele Salvoldi, advised by Prof Dr Klaus Geus. GIS and database development by Rainer Streng.

Images of the original documents are by kind permission of The National Trust and the Dorset History Centre, Dorchester, UK.

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The project and its by-products

    • Salvoldi, D. and K. Geus. "A Historical Comparative Gazetteer for Nubia." In Dotawo: A Journal of Nubian Studies 4 (2017). Read it here.

    • Salvoldi, D. “A Historical Geographic Information System (HGIS) of Nubia Based on the William J. Bankes Archive (1815-1822).” In Digital Humanities Quarterly Volume 11, Number 2, Göttingen Dialogue in Digital Humanities (2017). Read it here.

    • Salvoldi, Daniele. “(Re)Constructing the Sacred Landscape of Nubia in the Early Nineteenth Century”. In Sacred Landscapes: Creation, Manipulation, Transformation, edited by Gian Franco Chiai and Ralph Haussler. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2020.

William J. Bankes and the Bankes Archives

  • Catalogue of William John Bankes (1786-1855): Egyptian Drawings. Bankes of Kingston Lacy and Corfe Castle (D/BKL, 1348-1925); Maps, Plans and Drawings. Dorchester: Dorset History Centre, 2011. Browse the catalogue here.

  • Mazuel J. L’Oeuvre Géographique de Linant de Bellefonds. Étude de Géographie Historique. Cairo 1937.

  • Salvoldi, D. “The Catalogue of William John Bankes’ Egyptian Portfolio (1815-1822).” In Bulletin of the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East 51 (2012): 20.

  • Usick, P. “The Egyptian drawings of Alessandro Ricci in Florence. A list of drawings from a portfolio in the Museo Egizio di Firenze.” Göttinger Miszellen 162 (1998): 73-92.

  • Usick, P. Adventures in Egypt and Nubia. The Travels of William John Bankes (1786-1855). London: The British Museum Press, 2002.


And see AWOL's Roundup of Resources on Ancient Geography


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