After the first year: a look behind the scenes

It has now been one year since our pilot project about Lower Saxony started in Göttingen. Moreover, the project partners in Aarhus and Magdeburg are in the saddle and the Dutch project is taking on shape. Time for our second plenary meeting to discuss the state of the project, this time at the offices of our team at Otto von Guericke Universität in Magdeburg on January 23 and 24.

Confidential Documents on the Table
Two days of technical details and strategic discussions at our Magdeburg Workshop

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Medieval road discovered in Flanders

VRT News: Middeleeuwse "snelweg" ontdekt
Middeleeuwse „snelweg“ Gavere bij toeval ontdekt

In April this year, volunteers of the local tourist organization in Gavere near Gent, Flanders, discovered the overgrown remains of a late medieval paved road near the village of Asper by chance. They were planning a historical walking tour and saw that on old maps (1669) a road was drawn which did not exist anymore. Visiting the site, they discovered the setts (stones) of the former road under the earth and bushes.
Most pre-modern road remnants take the form of hollow roads, where the road lies deeper than the surrounding land, carved out from the earth’s surface by centuries of continuous use (see for example the image in the blog’s header). The find of the Flanders road is exceptional in that it is the opposite of a hollow road: the paved road surface is located on a higher level than the surrounding land. Roads like these were constructed in terrain that was marshy or prone to flooding, designed to prevent the road from turning into a mud pool.
The map that is being created by the pre-modern streetmap project is also intended to cover a part of Flanders. If we will find someone to work on a Flemish sub-project (volunteers welcome!), the newly discovered road might be included on the map as well. At least the find shows us that when trying to reconstruct medieval roads, it is sometimes worth going into the field in addition to studying old maps and written sources.
Original article (in Dutch) here: https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2019/04/24/middeleeuwse-snelweg-gavere-bij-toeval-ontdekt/

Maps and Digital Humanities

Poster about the Project at DH Expo in Göttingen
Poster about the Project at DH Expo in Göttingen

DH Expo in Göttingen
GCDH and DigHum Institute present DH Projects from Göttingen Campus

DH is not only about text recognition, annotation, language processing, the accumulation of metadata, the creation of colourful network-visualisations or 3D scans. We all know: Space is a very important aspect in humanities, be it in the location of dialects, the spread of certain artefacts or, most prominent, the course of history in general. Time and space belong together. This has always been a major challenge in the creation of maps depicting historical events. The printed map could only use the given space once. Monochrome maps had to operate with shades of grey or certain patterns to show changes in time and space and used arrows to depict movement. Coloured maps opened up new possibilities to show dynamic events or changes in landscape or built environments. It is now with digital maps and the use of GIS and its online presentations that the dynamics in time and space can really be made visible. Layers open the possibility to interact: they can show a status in time or highlight certain elements. But most important: A real interactive data driven map can be a research tool in itself – that is, what we are aiming at.
The Faculty of Humanities at Göttingen University showed off with their current projects in an (analogue) exposition. It looks like DH is slowly becoming a valued element of research in the humanities and students are well aware of it; there is a growing demand for courses involving methods of DH.

The very basic presentation of what we’re doing here

Presenting the Roads

Bart presents the project
Bart presenting at the Workshop Agrarian Market Production and Infrastructure of the Network for Premodern Economic History, Göttingen June 26th/27th

We had a good time discussing methodology and perspectives. People quickly get an idea of what might be possible for future research once the map and database are available.

Niels presenting at Hansischer Geschichtsverein
Niels presenting at the Pfingsttagung of the Hansischer Geschichtsverein, Hanover June 11th/12th