Thursday, March 18, 2021

Kerameikos News: More than 4,200 British Museum Athenian vases integrated into

More than 4,200 British Museum Athenian vases integrated into

In a major leap forward, more than 4,200 Athenian Greek vases (primarily Archaic and Classical) have been linked to URIs and integrated into the SPARQL endpoint for query and visualization.

A large quantity of relevant painters and potters (about 300) have been published to in recent months. While work remains to create URIs and definitions for the remaining notable Classical Red-figure painters and to fill in the gaps of relatively non-notable entities from the Beazley Archive Pottery Database vocabularies, the number of artists that exist as entities within the Kerameikos LOD ecosystem is great enough to begin the process of aggregating open access museum collections.

The first choice among this is the British Museum. Using the new Collections database, more than 5,000 Athenian ceramic objects (full vases and fragments) were exported as a CSV and then normalized and reconciled to URIs through our own OpenRefine API.

As a result, 4,200 vases from the BM have been linked to shapes (the lowest barrier to entry in the system). Other concepts, such as painter/potter, production place, time period, and technique, were linked to as well (although our coverage is not yet complete in these areas). Furthermore, about three-fourths of these objects have findspots in the BM database, which were normalized to the the lowest-level geographic entity represented by, representing more than 100 different places. The excavation pottery is easiest to spot, with hundreds of artifacts coming from Kameiros, Rhodes and Naucratis, Egypt (see These reconciled findspots were queried with the Wikidata SPARQL endpoint to extract a fuller geographic hierarchy (as well as matching URIs in Pleiades, the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names, and, making it possible to query all of the objects found in the modern region of Etruria or the country of Turkey. For example, the query below will get all objects found in Italy (Q38):

SELECT ?object ?place ?placeLabel ?lat ?long WHERE {
  ?object crmsci:O19i_was_object_found_by ?encounter .
  ?encounter crm:P7_took_place_at/crm:P89_falls_within ?place .
  ?place crm:P89_falls_within+ <> ;
         geo:location ?loc ;
         rdfs:label ?placeLabel .
  ?loc geo:lat ?lat ;
       geo:long ?long
} LIMIT 100

So based on the data we have, we can map production places and findspots associated with any sort of concept defined by Kerameikos.

Distribution of the Berlin Painter.

Now that we have significantly more data in the system (despite nearly all of it coming from a single source), geographic and distribution analysis visualizations begin to look a bit more accurate. This is not a full picture, but it is a pretty clear demonstration of the sorts of research tools that are possible on Linked Open Data methods applied to Greek pottery.

Black Figure technique distribution among BM data.

Below the example objects (which are now paginated in groups of 48), the distribution analysis chart can be generated nearly instantaneously. Here's a distribution of Black-figure shapes:

Black Figure distribution of shapes

The results of these queries can be downloaded as CSV or opened in a new page for bookmarking and citation, or refined further to compare different sets of data. As you can see, there are far more Black- than Red-figure lekythoi.

A note about the BM images

The CSV export from the British Museum includes a single column for an image. Most images published by the BM follow the IIIF image API protocol, but some of them are static jpegs on the server. I need to implement better validation between IIIF and non-IIIF images served by the BM until they are able to make available IIIF manifests.


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