Wednesday, April 13, 2011

MEGA-Jordan: Archaeological Sites on the Map

I have lamented before the lack of a good map of Jordan showing the archaeological sites.  Today that shortcoming is partially resolved with the unveiling of MEGA-Jordan, an online database of that locates 11,000 archaeological sites on a Google Earth-type interface.  The database was created by the Getty Conservation Institute and the World Monuments Fund. 

The opening page includes 11 tutorial videos, but if you are interested you should watch them before you enter the site because a bug in the website will prevent you from returning from the map section to the entry page.  (You can work around this by opening the site in a different browser.)

From the Associated Press:

Jordan on Tuesday launched the world's largest online antiquities database, which details every archaeological site in the country and aims to help preserve its treasures. Its creators said the Web platform could be a model for Iraq, where looters have plundered its ancient heritage.

Experts said the Middle Eastern Geodatabase for Antiquities is the first such countrywide system. The site uses Geographic Information System, similar to Google Earth, to map 11,000 registered sites in the country , and a click on each reveals inventories of what they contain and reports on their conditions.

The public can use the material for planning visits. Scholars and inspectors approved by Jordan's Antiquities can update the information in a user-friendly way for other professionals to follow and for authorities to keep track of threats to the sites.

Jordan hosts a number of World Heritage sites, most famously the 2,000 year-old rose rock city of Petra , but also Umm er-Rassas, a city dating back to the 5th century that features ancient Byzantine churches, and Qasr Amra, an 8th century Islamic castle. It is also dotted with sites dating from the Neolithic Age, through Biblical times to the Crusades.

The $1 million MEGA program was developed in cooperation with Getty Institute of Los Angeles and the New York-based World Monuments Fund.

"Jordan is at the forefront of safeguarding its heritage," Getty's director Tim Whalen said at an Amman press conference with antiquities chief Ziad al-Saad unveiling the system.

The story continues here.  I tested the site by searching for and quickly finding Tal Jalul, Hesban, and Gadara.  The database does not appear to contain entries for the biblical sites of Penuel/Peniel and Mahanaim.

Our gratitude goes to the Getty Conservation Institute and the World Monuments Fund for creating this work and for the country of Jordan for allowing it.

HT: Jack Sasson

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