When I began the Documenting Cappadocia project last year, I thought a WordPress site would be a quick and nifty way to share some lists and photos, hopefully inspiring more people to do research on Byzantine Cappadocia. While the original goal holds true, I’ve decided to adopt a more long-term strategy, building a database to serve the scholarly community, rather than just acting as social hub or album, and carefully considering the software and tools that are best suited for a project of this size.
My inspiration comes from the early explorers of Cappadocia who, in the early 20th century, documented Byzantine monuments by describing and photographing dozens of locations, often at great personal risk and expense. Volumes by Guillaume de Jerphanion, Marcell Restle, and Gertrude Bell (among others) are listed in the bibliography. These publications are still a valuable starting point for any scholar who researches Cappadocia, but the books are expensive, often out of print, and difficult to locate. Very few of these resources can be found online.
Another long tradition is that of the gazetteer, the directory or encyclopedic dictionary of places. Since antiquity, scholars have mapped important locations with a corresponding directory of information about each site. Twenty-first century gazetteers often build these resources online. Pleiades, for instance, began with the printed Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World and now uses crowd-sourced information to link geographical and historical data about ancient places. You may have noticed Documenting Cappadocia’s list of Byzantine monuments. This will be the starting point for a database that contains an entry for each Byzantine site. The sites will then be incorporated into a searchable map, creating a gazetteer of Cappadocia, one that will digitize the early explorers’ tradition of documenting monuments into a twenty-first century tool for research.