2017-09-24

First You Have to Throw It

Traditional philology studies old texts by weighing every word. A colleague mentioned to me yesterday this article:
Springer, Matthias. 'Riparii - Ribuarier - Rheinfranken nebst einigen Bemerkungen zum Geographen von Ravenna' in: Die Franken und die Alemannen bis zur "Schlacht bei Z├╝lpich" (1998), 200-269.

Seventy pages and 200 footnotes to explain two words, "Francia Rinensis", in the Ravenna Cosmography. That's enormously valuable, but it's not the only technique that produces results.

Experimental study of a document assumes that we can learn about it by using it. Nowadays, if we dug up an ancient pointed stick from a bog, we would make a replica and throw it. The final determination of whether it was a spear or a bean-stake would be experimental.

That's why I argue for a new approach to the Tabula Peutingeriana, the third or fourth century Latin chart of the known world. Draw it. Redraw it. Observations come pouring out.

My second experimental paper has just gone online as a preprint/draft. Here is the abstract:
The ancient world lacked scaled maps. But simply knowing directions to places beyond the horizon would have sufficed to draw the Peutinger Table, the world's oldest detailed chart of Eurasia and North Africa. Previously unnoticed in the chart's picture of the European coastline are twists and turns which bolster the recent new evidence that its perspective on the world is from Roman-ruled Africa, not Italy. One such turn aligns the whole Mediterranean on an axis from Gabes to Antioch. The chart also rotates Greece, the mouth of the Adriatic and Italy to the point of view of a traveler arriving from the Tunisian coast. Though the Latin chart's author and precise date are unknown, its method of showing distant coasts recurs in a map made in 1841 by New Zealand Maori. Where a pre-modern map has sightlines leading back to a common point of origin, it can "tell us about itself".
Cite it as: Piggin, Jean-Baptiste. Late Antiquity: How the Peutinger Chart Reshapes Europe for African Eyes. Academia.edu preprint, 2017-09. Online.

There's also a feedback/discussion page (but you need to be registered with Academia.edu to take part).

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