Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When a place gets boring, even the rich people leave

On the occasion of Jon Seydl's magnum opus, the re-installation of the Cleveland Museum of Art, I have been thinking about the fate of cities. Jon gave me a brilliant introduction to Cleveland back in May, when I passed through on my AIA lecture tour. Judging from Bill Moyer's Journal, "Mortgage Meltdown" (PBS, July 19, 2008), Cleveland's fate has been dramatic enough to represent the worst case scenario. My visit to Louisville, KY, where my sister and brother-in-law gave me a fabulous introduction to the city, offered yet another case study, a hidden jewel caught between the fates of the South and the Midwest. Driving through Cincinnati and Columbus on the way back to Philadelphia was equally instructive.

The opening of the Cleveland Museum and the cultural offerings of Louisville (the Olmsted ParkAntique Mall, the Architectural Salvage store, the Speed) highlight the perseverance of "The Creative Class," a term coined by urbanist Richard Florida in T
System, the he Rise of the Creative Class and How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life (New York, 2002). Florida argues that America's single most exciting social force is a loose community of urbanites involved in culture, the arts, and design. Although its members don't always recognize themselves as a "class," this group is critical component of economic development. The success of Barack Obama, Florida argues, is the first mass political consequence of this group. Florida has entered the public eye again in a new book, Who's Your City: How the Creative Economy is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life (New York, 2008), which refines the discussion of cities.

In his Talk of the Nation (June 19, 2008) interview, Florida discussed the social cost of moving to a new place based on a job. Displacement from home, friends, and family carries a hidden cost of an average $133,000 a year. Having had to deal with an ailing mother 12-hours away, my wife 16-hours away, or my sister's family, another 12-hours away, not to mention the geographically dispersed group of friends, makes this clear. Following the geography of the job market, translates to wasting a tremendous amount of resources reconnecting with human value (partners, family, friends). Stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for 2 1/2 hours because of a trailer truck accident, or failing to make it to Cleveland (and missing the new CMA galleries) brought all these issues home. Florida's book of how one chooses what city to live in places those frustrations in perspective. Florida also helps in understanding the distinctions between bad scenarios, such as Charlotte's "sprawl without growth" and good scenarios, such as Portland's "growth control." You can read more on Florida in his blog Creative Class Group, or in his web site Who's Your City.

While Florida's new book was released, the National Endowment of the Arts published a report on the demographics of artists (dancers, musicians, writers, architects). "Artists in the Workforce, 1990-2005," maps this Creative Class with great detail. When the
New York Times publicized the report in "A 21st-Century Profile: Art for Art's Sake, and for the U.S. Economy, Too" (NYT, June 12, 2008), it skewed the data towards New York. It's worth downloading the report itself and studying it closely. Table 43, for example, ranks the top 50 metropolitan areas by number of artists (Philadelphia is no. 6, Cleveland is no. 30). Who knew that Massachusetts has the greatest concentration of architects?

So what is the lesson? Art and culture matter beyond their inherent value. They drive important national movements and economic trends. Of course we all know this, but the political climate of the last decade may have helped us forget it. In a recent piece, Christopher Hitchens also laments the loss of bohemia, "Last Call: Bohemia"
Vanity Fair (July 2008) . Let's not forget the wisdom of Jane Jacobs "When a place gets boring, even the rich people leave" (quoted in Florida's blog).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mapping Eleia

After many years of piecemeal instructions on GIS and piecemeal collection of data for the Greek province of Eleia, I have finally managed to produce some ArcGIS maps. The Greek Ministry of Culture is opening a new museum at Pyrgos. Pari Kalamara (Directorate of Museums, Exhibitions and Educational Programmes) has invited the Morea Project to design a digital exhibition on the settlements of Eleia. We met formally for the first time last summer. The data is proceeding this summer, when Fred Cooper (who is teaching the ASCSA summer session) met again with the team. Towards this end, I've been scrambling to master GIS and produce some maps in the lingua franca of cartography (hence the last two postings on toponysms and GIS). The other collaborators are Todd Brenningmeyer and Sarah Franck, who are now in Greece working with Fred towards the next meeting with the Greek team on July 29th. On the U.S. sides, my mentor has been Nick Stapp, researcher at the Corinth Computer Project, at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology. I thank him for all the tutorials.

Using an archaeological method, I am working backwards, mapping the settlements of Eleia stratigraphically from the present to the past. So, I've started with locating 340 villages listed on the 2001 census of Greece. Now, I am able to also map population data from that census. The lightest gray represents 0-500 inhabitants, the darkest gray represents 7,400-24,000 inhabitants. Here it is. A population map for the province. I'm not sure if this has ever been done before. In future postings, I will indeed move back into the past and illustrate maps from the late medieval, early medieval, and early Christian periods. The earliest demographic data for the Peloponnese is very well published by Vasiles Panagiotopoulos,
Plethysmos kai oikismoi tes Peloponnesou 13os-18os aionas (Athens, 1985)

I'm also eager to map out the territories affected by the devastating fires of last summer. Although it was huge on international news last year, it has been forgotten in the press. I hope to produce an ArcGIS shapefile that shows the coverage of the burning, based on NASA's satellite images (published on BBC). Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mapping Greek Toponyms

Keeping track of Greek place names (toponyms), is a difficult endeavor. Related to the previous posting, I want to share some thoughts on how to deal with mapping Greek toponyms especially in relation to the requirements of ArcGIS.


The first and most obvious problem in any database is, of course, linguistic. Given the wide range of transliteration systems, two databases can easily become incompatible if they follow different systems. In general there are two philosophies of transliteration: faithful to the written word, or faithful to the spoken word. The former is followed mostly by classicists and archaeologists (lovers of dead forms), while the former is followed by anthropologists and modern historians (lovers of living forms). My favorite is the Library of Congress system (tending more towards the written word) because it offers bibliographic standardization. More recently, I've been experimenting with the guidelines for the American School of Classical Studies publication office,
which offers somewhat of a compromise. Since there is no consensus on the matter, one should be very careful about which system to use. I have made the mistake of switching systems mid-project. First I used a Germanic system based on the Tabula Imperii Byzantinii volumes, then I switched to Library of Congress, and now I'm switching again to Hesperia's guidelines. There is only one thing that drives me crazy about the Hesperia system: the transliteration of Greek "u" (upsilons) into "u" rather than "y" (Library of Congress system).


The constant abandonment and resettlement of Greek settlements means constantly shifting name usage. Through "metoikesis," a phenomenon that goes back to antiquity, communities moved through the landscape. Often they took the original name with them, but other times they embraced a new toponym. In the 1830s, Jacob Fallmerayer (Geschichte der Halbinsel Morea während des Mittelalters) used the presence of Slavic toponyms to disinherit modern Greeks from their classical ancestors. He argued that Slavic words presented evidence of huge Slavic migration (during the 6th-7th c. C.E.) and the bastardization of the local population. This left the Germans as the premier inheritors of the Aryan race. A more nuanced understanding of abandonment and re-foundation practices makes Fallmerayer's thesis (and, for that matter, the nationalist Greek counter-thesis) superficial and irrelevant. Fallmerayer has been superseded by Max Vasmer's study,
Die Slaven in Griechenland (Berlin, 1941). Nevertheless, keeping track of toponymic change is a difficult historical challenge.


Just as Fallmeryer argued for modern Greek inauthenticity, the modern Greek state rebutted with exaggerated authenticity. Using official bureaucratic mechanisms, the Greek state changed place names from vernacular and Turkish sounding words to proper Greek works during the 1890s-1920s. For example, a village named Mophkitsa was suddenly renamed Taxiarches, based on the village's patron saint. The
Megali Idea of the 1920s encouraged the use of ancient site names, even if the name had been completely forgotten. Any village that was near an archaeological site was artificially rebaptized. For instance, a village known by its inhabitants as Koumpouthekras was renamed Artemida. Such self-conscious renaming by the state has lead into all kinds of unstable village names. My favorite problem arises with the misidentification of sites. An ancient town of Leontion, for example, is mentioned by Strabo and Pausanias, but its location was not known. Two schools of interpretation developed. The one that prevailed in the 1920s, as it turns out, was wrong. Nevertheless, the nearby village Gourzoumista (very Turkish sounding) is now stuck with the 1920s renaming Leontion, although the correct site of Leontion is closer to Ano and Kato Vlassia. Yannis Pikoulas, the world expert on Arcadian roads, has published a thick volume showing the simple correspondences between old and new names, Λεξικό των οικισμών της Πελοποννήσου. Παλαιά και νέα τοπωνύμια (Athens, 2001). The book has received little circulation because it's simply a list. The only reason that I have seen it at all is because Pikoulas gave a copy to David Romano, who shelved it in the Corinth Computer Project Library. Frankly, it would have been much more useful in a digital format and it may have even reached a large audience. I'm sure Pikoulas produced the book from a database, to start with.


Even if the central government renamed a site in the official records, this doesn't mean that the locals followed the directive. Imagine how you would feel if the Federal U.S. government told you one day that your hometown is not called Kutztown anymore but Artemida. Wouldn't you be suspicious of some subversive usurping of local power? This is the case in countless Greek villages, where the locals refused to adopt the decreed names and continued to use the old name. The Greek National Archives contains some fascinating correspondence between villages and the government, showing extensive resistance by locals in adopting archaizing nationalist names. Fred Cooper's students (last name Konstantinidou) was studying these letters

The name that one choses to use marks him/her along a political/intellectual spectrum. This can get tricky. Byzantine scholars, for example, resist the archaizing re-namings even in the official state publications. Names are indeed political. You can just imagine the mess in territories such as Macedonia that included multi-ethnic and multi-lingual populations. My experience is limited to Serres, where the Greek-Buglarian power struggle is palpable even on icons. The name-wars are not unique to Greece, of course. One North American example comes to mind from Waterloo, Ontario. In 1916, the city of Berlin was renamed Kitchener thanks to World War I alliances. The original name revealed the ethnic makeup of its original settlers, but in 1916, the city did not want to be associated with Canada's enemy. In the U.S., the political renaming of streets is very common. A most recent example is the appearance of Martin Luther Kings streets in every city.

Keeping track of Greek village names may be initially frustrating, but it is interesting from a historical point of view. Maps are unstable. The simple action of listing territories or places quickly becomes political, whether one likes it or not. So what should one do? My advice is to rely on the most "official" of documents, the 1:50,000 Greek military maps. They are particularly valuable in names where political power has less at stake, such as in names of smaller natural features, creeks, hills, valleys, neighborhoods. For a consistent coverage, use the 1:250,000 Statistical Service maps. As discussed in the previous posting, they have the added advantage of a unique numerical system. What we should all strive for is making all this data openly available on the web to avoid all future headaches.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mapping Greek Landscapes in GIS

Like most archaeologists who deal with Greek field surveys, I've struggled with problems of digital maps and databases. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) require a level of standardization that is difficult to get from Greece. Part of the problem is that, unlike the U.S., most of the cartographic data is not already digitally available but must be constructed by the project. Usually, we have to digitize paper maps, which are difficult to procure on their own right. The most reliable maps are 1:50,000 sheets produced by HAGS/ΓΥΣ (Hellenic Army Geographical Service/Γεωγραφική Υπηρεσία Στρατού), which is the equivalent of the Core of Engineers. One can get these maps in the Army Geographical Service offices at Pedion tou Areos, Athens. In addition, 1:5,0o0 maps are also available here, as well as aerial photography. However, it is illegal to take them out of the country (although most people do). But that's only part of the problem. Some sheets are not available at all because of sensitive areas. For example, I have been trying to get coverage for Prodromos Monastery near Serres (see, Mount Menoikeion Seminar). Thanks to the site's proximity to the Bulgarian borders, the map is not available at all. In addition, many of the sheets have not been georectified. If you don't know whether your HAGS sheet has been rectified for GPS coordinates, see if it has an orange-color grid over the usual Greek grid. Each map legends, moreover, lists when the map has been checked. This general difficulty with Greek military maps (and things are even worse for Turkish maps) has forced many people to use Landsat, Spot, or Russian satellite scenes, instead.

Military paper maps and satellite images are useful for navigation and accuracy, but they are less useful for database management. In trying to grapple with a site gazetteer for the northwestern Peloponnese, I have concluded that the best solution is to use another set of maps, the 1:250,000 Nomos sheets from the Statistical Service of Greece. These can be bought at the Statistical Service offices near Omonia Square. They are particularly useful because they show the boundaries of Greece's official political units, in descending order from Nomos (province), to Demos (municipality), to Diamerisma (community). The Greek government has given these boundaries to ERSI and are available as shapefiles through an expensive package of ArcGIS. ArcGIS has additional parcels, such as Greek postal codes, which might be equally useful. The nice thing about the Statistical Service shapefiles is that they correspond to the numbering system used by the National Census since the first census of 1963 (the most recent one taken in 2000). For the western Peloponnese, we have wonderful demographic data: an Ottoman census (1461/3), the Corner census (1689), the Grimani census (1700), a continuous series of 19th-c data (Pouqueville, French Expedition to the Morea, etc.), and Greek government data. As far as I know, nobody has put these figures in GIS. With such a database, one can very easily, for example, do dynamic queries about population shifts in the Greek countryside. Demographic changes can also be correlated with topography and natural resources.

GIS requires unique identifiers for every piece of data. Hence, the numbers that correspond to Greece's geographic units are very useful for organizing any site-based table. In descending order, the organizational hierarchy of the Statistical Service is Nomos (Province), Demos (Municipalities), and Diamerisma (Community). The English terms in translation are precisely the ones that ArcGIS uses in their shapefiles. The numbers are consistent and all-inclusive sets. So if you check for village Neohori, where Fred Cooper runs his archaeological field school, you’ll find the following numbers:

Province: 14 (Ilia)

Municipality: 1411 (Zaharo)

Community: 1411130 (Neohori)

The Diamerisma (Community) boundaries are the smallest geographical units defined by Greece. The Nomos (Province) of Eleia, for example, has about 400 parcels. So, if you are making a database of any series of items within that area, you can use the 8-number integer as the prefix. Or if you want to use the larger geographical unit of Demos (Municipality)--about a dozen for each Province)--you can use the 4-number integer as the prefix. Additional numbers can be added for the set of items within that unit.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States