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Medieval Macrospace Through GIS: The Norse World Project Approach

, Agnieszka Backman,
Published: 25 September 2019

Abstract: The project ‘The Norse Perception of the World’ is building a digital infrastructure to facilitate interdisciplinary research on medieval worldviews as recorded in East Norse texts. It does so by collecting spatial material, i.e. attestations of place names and other location-based data from medieval vernacular manuscripts, early prints, and runic inscriptions from fictional, non-biblical, and scientific texts dated to before 1530, and providing free access to these spatial references through a tailored back-end MySQL database and an interactive end-user interface with mapping via Leaflet and Leaflet.markercluster. This paper discusses how geocoding can be problematic when applied to pre-modern materials, as the concept of space is a temporal and social variable, especially when dealing with ideas about places abroad. The geospatial visualization employed by the project has no ambition to represent a historically correct worldview as understood by medieval Scandinavians. Rather, it is an anachronistic tool for managing and obtaining an overview of the spatial references in East Norse texts.
Keywords: Spatial humanities / Scandinavian philology / East Norse / place names / interactive GIS / Leaflet

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