Main content start

Mellon Sawyer Seminar Series: Ancient Data and Its Divisions (Chris Johanson, Chiara Palladino, Eric Harvey)

Thu May 30th 2024, 5:30 - 7:00pm
Wallenberg Hall, Room 433A

Previous seminars in our series have attended to divisions, but also possibilities, engendered by data along various fault lines and contexts (from 19th-century statistical thinking to biases in archives, from the challenges of quantification to the history of data governance). With this seminar on ‘Ancient Data’ we focus on what happens to ancient sources—textual, material and visual--when digitized and turned into data, and what it means for the study of antiquity to operate in a digital environment and making use of digital tools. How do we work and reimagine the data and information lost? What can the recent digital and computational technologies offer as answers to such questions? How do we develop new software or programming that serves the specific questions of ancient data? How do we work with the divides between the temporalities and data-sizes of our contemporary world and the Classical world?

This is the tenth event in the Mellon Sawyer Seminar series, The Data that Divides Us: Recalibrating Data Methods for New Knowledge Frameworks Across the Humanities, generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. During Stanford University's 2023-24 academic year, the Sawyer Seminar Series has convened scholars from a variety of disciplinary perspectives and personal standpoints to discuss the data that has saturated our world. 

Dr. Eric Harvey, Professors Chiara Palladino and Chris Johanson examine and analyze ancient texts and artifacts through a variety of digital programs, from Ancient Greek and Latin spatial narratives to Biblical psalms and archeological sites. They will talk about the ways they envision 'Ancient Data' and the challenges they face working with it. Please join us for a conversation about ancient data and its divisions. Following the talk, there will be a response by Merve Tekgürler (PhD candidate in Department of History, and MS student in Symbolic Systems at Stanford).

We will have a reception before the talk, starting at 5 pm. If you cannot join us in person, you can request a Zoom link through this link.

About the Speakers

Chiara Palladino is Assistant Professor of Classics at Furman University, Chair of the Interdisciplinary Minor in Ancient Greek and Roman Studies, and currently a fellow for the LECTIO Network at KU Leuven. With a background in Classical Philology, Dr. Palladino started working on digital and computational methods in 2016, when she joined the Alexander von Humboldt Chair of Digital Humanities at the University of Leipzig. Since then, she has specialized in the analysis of premodern spatial narratives and in the development of AI models for the automatic analysis of Ancient Greek texts. Her collaborations include some of the most important Digital Classics initiatives, such as the Perseus Digital Library, the Pelagios Network, and the Digital Classicist Wiki. She is also regularly featured as a lecturer in the open access Sunoikisis Digital Classics Seminars and in the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria. Her current research embraces the fields of text alignment, Named Entity Recognition, Sentiment Analysis, geospatial modeling, and semantic annotation. Her most recent book, Can’t Touch This: Digital Approaches to Materiality in Cultural Heritage, co-edited with Gabriel Bodard and published in Open Access by Ubiquity Press, examines important epistemological and ethical issues in the digital representation of cultural heritage of the premodern world.


Chris Johanson is Associate Professor in the UCLA Department of Classics, Chair and founding faculty of the UCLA Digital Humanities Program, and Interim Faculty Director of Innovative Applications in Data Science for UCLA DataX. His research explores the ancient Graeco-Roman world—its extant literature, texts of all kinds, and its material record—using data visualization, network analysis, 2 and 3D representation and real-time interaction. He directs RomeLab, a multi-disciplinary research group whose work uses the physical and virtual city of Rome as a point of departure to study the interrelationship between historical phenomena and the spaces and places of the ancient city. He has collaborated on mapping and visualization projects set in Bolivia, Peru, Albania, Iceland, Spain, Turkey and Italy. His research has received funding from Mellon, the NEH, the MacArthur Foundation, the Ahmanson Foundation, and Google.


Eric Harvey holds a PhD in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University with a specialization in Bible and the Ancient Near East. He is a once-and-future postdoc at CESTA and a current Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. His research areas include material processes of textual transmission, blindness and disability in the ancient Middle East, and the political economy of myth and ritual. He also works to increase the accessibility of ancient studies to disabled students and scholars, and will soon rejoin CESTA to co-direct the NEH-funded Braille in Ancient Studies project with Mark Algee-Hewitt.