Project will republish, update archaeological map of Rome

A $65,000 grant will fund Department of Architecture Professor James Tice and his team's goal of creating a GIS-based layered history of Rome built upon a classic and influential map published at the turn of the last century.

"The objective is to provide an accessible and highly interactive website and geo-database that is a resource for archaeologists and others who wish to study Rome and discover its rich history of continuities and transformations," Tice says.

Tice and UO colleague Massimo Lollini, a professor of Italian in the Department of Romance Languages, were among nine national recipients of 2012 Digital Innovation Fellowships awarded by the American Council of Learned Societies.

The grant to Tice will fund work by his team, which includes Erik Steiner, formerly of the UO InfoGraphics Lab and now creative director of the Spatial History Project at Stanford University; Allan Ceen, director of Studium Urbis in Rome (a research center on the topography and urban development of Rome) and adjunct professor at Penn State University; and UO architecture students Kelly Mabry and Ann Phillips.

Tice will focus on the Forma Urbis Romae, an innovative map of Rome published by scholar Rodolfo Lanciani in 1901. The map is unique because it represents Rome's rich history as a series of transparent layers. These include an archaeological layer of Ancient and early Christian Rome, a layer of Renaissance and Baroque Rome and a layer illustrating new interventions during Lanciani's lifetime.

"Lanciani is the first to provide an accurate and comprehensive map of Rome showing how it has evolved over three millennia," Tice says. "Through his exquisite and imaginative cartographic technique, Lanciani shows how the archaeological foundations of the city have profoundly influenced later epochs."

The map contains the most comprehensive archaeological record available in 1901, but since then scholars have developed a clearer picture of Rome, particularly its classical foundations.

Tice and his team will build on their past studies of Roman cartography, especially the 1748 map of Rome by Giambattista Nolli that Tice published as two interactive websites funded by the Northwest Academic Computing Consortium and the J. Paul Getty Foundation. Contemporary satellite imaging will provide a scientific platform upon which these maps will be brought into "real space" using GIS software.

The results of their work will be published both in print and online forms with the idea to present the information to archaeologists, scholars, and students as well as the general public. Tice says he wants the updated digital map to retain the look of Lanciani's map, as it is a "cartographic masterpiece of ancient Roman topography that is still the most comprehensive, informative and inspiring document in existence of Rome's layered past."

The UO Lokey Initiative for Science and the Human Condition funded early stages of the research.