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Pelagios is an international digital humanities project that ran from 2011 to 2019, thanks to the support of different funding institutions. The legacy of the project is now carried on by the Pelagios Network association.


Established in 2011, Pelagios has been developing the means of linking independently created and curated online resources together via their common references to place. In its first two phases, Pelagios worked with major partners specialising in different areas of the classical world—e.g. the Perseus Classical Library, the German Archaeological Database,, the Pleiades gazetteer—to develop a simple but effective means of linking between their varying resources. In phase 3, we extended our work to encompass "Early Geospatial Documents" more broadly, including early Christian Mappae Mundi and pilgrimages, Portolan charts, and Islamic and Chinese maps. This centred on developing a user-friendly platform (Recogito) for annotating documents (both texts and maps), and trialling a map interface (Peripleo) for searching through the network. Pelagios 4 worked with scholars from these different traditions to test the extent to which digital tools could facilitate geospatial analysis, and encourage reflection on the process of annotation itself. Pelagios 5 ("Sea Change") trialled crowdsourcing annotation in university undergraduate classes. Pelagios 6 prioritised the creation of a linked open data community (Pelagios Commons) sharing resources, tools, and best practice. Its last phase, Pelagios 7, supported the transition of Pelagios from a funded project to an association of independent and equal partners, the Pelagios Network.

The research output by Pelagios is having a significant impact in the development of ancient world web-infrastructure for academic and non-academic data providers alike. The open data service technology it has championed is now the de facto international standard for open linked geospatial data concerning the ancient world, and is being used by other Web and linked data projects (e.g. Standards for Networking Ancient Prosopographies; PeriodO: a gazetteer for period assertions). Impact is measured not just by the growing number of partners whom Pelagios has attracted but also by the process that each group undertakes to become a partner: by aligning their data to the Pelagios network, each partner changes the way they hold their data. This means that Pelagios’s research is transforming both the nature of these data and the way in which these organisations work or even conceptualise their activity.


In order to help the community create links and make use of them, Pelagios has developed open resources for both the production and consumption of Linked Open GeoData.

  • Recogito ( is a Web-based annotation tool that makes it easy to identify and record the places referred to in historical texts, maps and tables. Recogito has features dedicated to both stages of the annotation workflow:
    • a geotagging area, for identifying place names in digital texts, tabular documents or high-resolution maps;
    • a georesolving area, for mapping those place names to a global gazetteer, supported by an automated suggestion system.

The last version of Recogito performs automated named entity recognition, based on the Stanford algorithms, and also provides different visualisations options, variant map-tiles, and multiple download formats. An extensive tutorial is available at

  • Peripleo ( is a map-based LOD API, for exploring the data contributed by a number of data partners (including the British Museum, the Portable Antiquity Scheme, the Pleiades Gazetteer, and the Ure Museums). Its user interface allows for free browsing as well as keyword and full-text search, while offering filtering options based on time, data source and object type.

Pelagios map tiles depict notable place names (settlements, regions and physical features) against a high resolution topography for a range of historical periods. They are released under open license for use in other applications and services, providing a contextual backdrop for historical data.

Investigative team

  • Leif Isaksen [2011-2019] Digital Humanities, Exeter University
  • Elton Barker [2011-2019], Classical Studies, The Open University
  • Rainer Simon [2011-2019], The Austrian Institute of Technology
  • Pau de Soto [2013-2016], Classical Archaeology, University of Southampton
  • Valeria Vitale [2017-2019], The Institute of Classical Studies, London
  • Rebecca Kahn [2017-2019], Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Berlin


  • Simon, R., Barker, E. and Isaksen, L. (2012): Exploring Pelagios: a visual browser for geo-tagged datasets. In: Agirre et al. (eds.), International Workshop on Supporting Users' Exploration of Digital Libraries. Cyprus, 29-34
  • Isaksen, L., Simon, R., Barker, E., and de Soto Cañamares (2014): Pelagios and the emerging graph of ancient world data. Web Sci’14: Proceedings of the 2014 ACM conference on Web science, 197-201.
  • Simon, R., Pilgerstorfer, P., Isaksen, L. and Barker, E. (2014): Towards semi-automatic annotation of toponyms on old maps. e-Perimetron, 9.3, 105-112 (
  • Simon, R., Barker, E., de Soto Cañamares, P. and Isaksen, L. (2014a): ‘Pelagios’. ISAW Papers 7.27.
  • Simon, R., Barker, E., de Soto Cañamares, P. and Isaksen, L. (2014b): Pelagios 3: Towards the semi-automatic annotation of toponyms in Early Geospatial Documents. In Proceedings of Digital Humanities 2014. Lausanne, Switzerland, July 8-12, 2014.
  • Simon, R., Barker, E., Isaksen, L. and de Soto Cañamares, P. (2015): Linking early geospatial documents, one place at a time: annotation of geographic documents with Recogito. e-Perimetron. 10.2, 49-59. ISSN 1790-3769.
  • Simon, R., Isaksen, L., Barker, E., and de Soto Cañamares, P. (2018). The Pleiades gazetteer and the Pelagios project. In M. L. Berman, R. Mostern H. Southall, eds. Placing Names: Enriching and Integrating Gazetteers, Indiana.
  • Simon, R.; Vitale, V.; Kahn, R.; Barker, E.; Isaksen L. (2020) “Revisiting Linking Early Geospatial Documents with Recogito.” In e-Perimetron. Vol.14, No.3.


  • Pelagios phases 1 and 2 was funded by JISC in successive programmes: Geospatial and Community Outreach and Resource Discovery (2011-2012)
  • Pelagios phase 3: "Early Geospatial Documents" was funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2013-2015)
  • Pelagios phase 4: "Studying the places of our past through the documents that refer to them" was funded by the AHRC (2014-2015)
  • Pelagios phase 5: "Sea Change" was supported with funding from Open Knowledge Foundation (2014-2015)
  • Pelagios phase 6: "Pelagios Commons" supported with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2016-2017)
  • Pelagios phase 7: "Pelagios Association" currently supported supported with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2018-2019)