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Archaeological CDs

January 2006 (110.1)

Online Review Article

Archaeological CDs

Reviewed Works

Delos: A Database of Archaeological Images, by Hervé Duchène and Stéphane Girerd (American Edition: Nicholas K. Rauh, Rhys F. Townsend, and John C. Bednar). CD-ROM. Educagri Éditions c/o Celf International, New York 1998.

Greek Vases in the Collection of the University of Melbourne at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, by the University of Melbourne. CD-ROM. The University of Melbourne, Melbourne 2000. ISBN 1-876832-08-8.

Ayia Sofia Constantinople, by Gaspard Fossati. CD-ROM. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. Octavo Editions, Oakland. $30. ISBN 1-891788-34-5.

AJA Book Reviews does not receive many archaeological CDs, perhaps because we have never reviewed any before, but also perhaps because the format is still somewhat experimental.

The Delos CD, issued on the occasion of the sesquicentennial of the French School of Archaeology in Athens, contains over 1,500 black-and-white photographs taken from before World War I. The format is double: from a map one can select a region and then a building and “play” the photographs from that specific site (including integrated texts, actual state plans, and architectural reconstructions of every major monument), or one can use the “diaporama” feature, which allows one to scroll through, either at will or as a “slide show,” the entire collection of photographs—neither the plans nor the texts are included here. There is a search function by keyword theme that allows one to search up to three themes at once, though it is not very user-friendly. And while one is pondering the photographs one can also listen to Annie Bélis and the Kérylos Ensemble play the surviving scores of ancient Greek music (this used to be available on a separate CD, Musique de la Grèce antique); the performance is spare.

It is unfortunate that the collection of photographs cannot be saved or printed; and since they are unnumbered, one cannot even refer to them conveniently. Most of the texts are curt; and the photographs of the “archaeologists of the Great Excavations” are not captioned, so we cannot find out who these gallant men and women were. Most especially troublesome is that the CD is already dated: Mac OS X cannot read it.

There are, however, some unexpectedly delightful images: the House of the Diadoumenos with its sculpture collected in the atrium, the Daidalic lions with their crisp claws, details of the frescoes still on the walls, the “Pantoufle” (Aphrodite, Pan, and Eros) before and after restoration, lots of ship grafitti, and some late, even Christian, decorative sculptures.

The CD of Melbourne vases presents the collection built up by the late Peter Connor; it contains 70 vases (two were stolen in 1990 but still appear here). The images are actually contained on a FileMakerPro database; they thus can be accessed separately, read by Adobe Photoshop, and then saved or printed. One can either scroll through the collection pot-by-pot (they are arranged by shape not chronology), or one can search from a prepared list of themes in several categories (“myth” [e.g., Boreas], “subject” [e.g., festival, Anthesteria], “animal” [hare, minotaur]). Select a vase with these features and one sees the spreadsheet entries. The vases cannot be saved or printed from this program.

The main photographs are somewhat small (12 x 16 cm), so details are not readily discernible. The QuickTime Virtual Reality feature brings up an even smaller image that can be turned and flipped; when zoomed, the image is blurry. Again, this CD is already dated: Mac OS X cannot read it.

The vases in this collection are, for the most part, rather modest. A few interesting pieces include a Mycenaean IIIB jug; a mid to late Corinthian jug with running dogs; a rather nice black-figure band cup with fight scenes; a neck amphora in the circle of the Antimenes Painter with a collection of divinities; an uncluttered Leagros Group lekythos with Hermes, Artemis, and Apollo; a cup by the Epeleios Painter with an uninterrupted gymnasium scene on the exterior and a youth with a discus on the interior; a red-figure Nolan amphora by the Painter of Leningrad 702 with father on one side and mother sending off her traveling son on the other; the prize piece, a red-figure column krater by the Comacchio Painter with a bearded man with a traveling hat threatening a woman with his sword (Orestes and Clytemnestra?); and a late fourth century red-figure krater by the Boston Ready Painter with women in a domestic setting on one side and draped youths on the other.

The Ayia Sophia disk is the one that perhaps best uses the CD format, for it contains a simple .pdf file that publishes the book and presents it page by page as well as in other formats. The book is that published by Gaspard (or Gaspare) Fossati in 1852, who, with his brother Giuseppe, had been the architects that had transformed the church into the mosque in 1849 (dedication 13 July). The page-by-page duplication of the book simply photographs each opened page, allowing one to zoom in on the French text and lithographs.

Accompanying features include detailed instructions on how to operate the Adobe Reader program needed to access the .pdf file (both Adobe versions 6 and 7), a history of the Fossatis and Sultan Abdülmecid, a description of the mosaics and how they were covered up, a history of Ayia Sophia, and several pages about the physical qualities of the book itself (the binding and collation, and provenance of the book in the Bancroft Library). There are also descriptions of the plates in English, while the plates themselves can be displayed with short English captions. The text can be copied and printed.

There is also a section on Octavo editions, as well as the URL for their website ( “The goal of Octavo’s imaging process is to present works as they were originally published.” From the website, I found that Octavo publishes several works of interest in both CD and hardcopy facsimile, such as Fontana’s book on the Vatican “Obelisk,” Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius, Johnson’s Dictionary, the Gutenburg Bible, Shakespeare’s Folio, Newton’s Opticks, Mercator’s Atlas, and Wyclif’s New Testament. The CDs cost $30–$50 generally, while the facsimiles run several hundred dollars. Either format seems inexpensive, especially considering the quality of production. Nearly everyone can afford a copy of these historic publications.

Department of Classics
University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas 66045-7095

Archaeological CDs

By John G. Younger

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 110, No. 1 (January 2006)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1101.Younger

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