Ptolemy's Britain and Ireland: A New Digital Reconstruction
Keywords: Claudius Ptolemy, Ancient geography, GIS analysis, Historical cartography, Georeferencing
Abstract. In this paper, we expand application of our mathematical methods for translating ancient coordinates from the classical Geography by Claudius Ptolemy into modern coordinates from India and Arabia to Britain and Ireland, historically important islands on the periphery of the ancient Roman Empire. The methods include triangulation and flocking with subsequent Bayesian correction. The results of our work can be conveniently visualized in modern GIS tools, such as ArcGIS, QGIS, and Google Earth. The enhancements we have made include a novel technique for handling tentatively identified points. We compare the precision of reconstruction achieved for Ptolemy's Britain and Ireland with the precisions that we had computed earlier for his India before the Ganges and three provinces of Arabia. We also provide improved validation and comparison amongst the methods applied. We compare our results with the prior work, while utilizing knowledge from such important ancient sources as the Antonine Itinerary, Tabula Peutingeriana, and the Ravenna Cosmography. The new digital reconstruction of Claudius Ptolemy's Britain and Ireland presented in this paper, along with the accompanying linguistic analysis of ancient toponyms, contributes to improvement of understanding of our cultural cartographic heritage by making it easier to study the ancient world using the popular and accessible GIS programs.