Monday, March 6, 2023

Karten von Attika in the Era of Digital Humanities


“These maps have never been surpassed, not even as a general cartographic work, let alone as thematic maps of ancient remains and traces.”

Manolis Korres,
Creation, Content and Value of Kaupert's Maps of Attica,
Athens 2008, p. 15.

The ambitious undertaking to record the antiquities of Attica on uniform topographical maps was set as a primary goal with the foundation of the German Archaeological Institute in Athens in 1874. The historian-archaeologist Ernst Curtius was the mastermind behind the project that was carried out in 1875-1894 under the supervision of the topographer, cartographer, and head of the mapping department of the General Staff of the Prussian Army, Johann August Kaupert.

The cartographic achievement entitled Karten von Attika: auf Veranlassung des Kaiserlich Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts und mit Unterstützung des K. Preussischen Ministeriums der geistlichen, Unterrichts- und Medicinal-angelegenheiten aufgenommen durch Offiziere und Beamte des K. Preussischen Grossen Generalstabes, mit erläuterndem Text, Berlin : D. Reimer, 1881-1900) consists of three map series and a volume with an extensive accompanying Explanatory Text (Karten von Attika: Erläuternder Text).

The final work includes 26+2 sheets covering a large area of the Attic countryside bounded by mount Parnes to the north and the city of Eleusis to the west. Sheets I and II were produced at a scale of 1:12500 (these are accompanied by their derivatives, sheets Ia and IIa) and sheets III–XXVI at a scale of 1:25000. The second map series consists of ten 1:100000 scale map sheets, including areas north of Parnes and outside the historic boundaries of Attica. Finally, the third part of the work is a single large map of the area produced at a scale of 1:100000.

An integral part of the Maps of Attica is the accompanying Explanatory Text, the main author of which was the philologist-archaeologist Arthur Milchhoefer: this is a topographical-archaeological commentary extremely rich in information that sometimes revises the existing mapping. The text contains important archaeological descriptions of physical remains indicated on the map sheets, as well as information about the Attic countryside of the 19th century, which was to be lost in later years due to changes in land uses, culminating in the major public works in the transition from the 20th to the 21st century (Attiki Odos, Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, projects for the 2004 Olympic Games).

Thanks to their large scale (1:25000) and the amount of detail depicted, the Maps of Attica provide a unique source of historical and archaeological information on the natural and cultural resource of Attica and remain a reference work for scholars of Attic topography.


The 24 sheets of the Maps of Attica (III–XXVI, 1:25000) were transferred to the digital by making the most of digital humanities technologies, especially Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and web mapping. The webGIS platform embodies a multi-level research program organized around four central axes:

  • Synthesis of the thematic content of the Maps of Attica into a single map by classifying the amount of information of the original work into remains of human activity of all kinds.
  • Distinguishing the contents on the map into surviving remains and damaged by newer activities.
  • Translation into Greek of the Explanatory Text of the Maps of Attica compiled by Ernst Curtius, G. von Alten, and, especially, Arthur Milchhoefer; the text had never before been translated in its entirety into Greek.
  • Recording of Attic toponyms.

This irreplaceable source of information on the archaeology and natural landscape of Attica was processed by the Dipylon team with state-of-art technology, which allows:

  • the vectorization and recording of cartographic evidence (signs and labels)
  • the grouping and classification of spatial data
  • the superimposition of multiple levels of information (e.g., plans of archaeological sites)
  • the linking on a database the cartographic evidence to relevant excerpts in the Explanatory Text of the Maps of Attica
  • the transfer to a modern topographic background of all the above data and their integration into a bilingual (Greek/English) webGIS platform


The following participated in the design, research, and implementation of the webGIS platform:

  • Christina Giannakoula (archaeologist, GIS specialist, coordinator)
  • George Lampropoulos (mechanical engineer, GIS specialist)
  • Matina Lambraki (surveying engineer, GIS specialist)
  • Evi Sempou (philologist)
  • George Panagiotopoulos (webGIS developer)
  • Alexandros Kokkalas (webGIS developer)
  • Orestis Goulakos (archaeologist)
  • Aspasia Tsatsouli (archaeologist)
  • Nikolina Koukouraki (undergraduate geology student)
  • Marina Alexandri (creative director)

The Explanatory Text of the Maps of Attica was translated into Greek by Dr. Demosthenes Donos (archaeologist) and the translated text was edited by Dr. Mimika Yiannopoulou (archaeologist) and Dr. Chrysanthi Kallini (archaeologist).

Attorneys Artemis Stamboulous and Christina Pigaki provided legal advice on personal data and copyright issues, respectively.

The project was supervised by Leda Costaki (archaeologist), Wanda Papaefthymiou (archaeologist), Maria Pigaki (cartographer), and Anna Maria Theocharaki (archaeologist).


And see AWOL's Roundup of Resources on Ancient Geography

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