Ancient Antioch: Mapping Political and Trade Networks with Google Earth

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Kristina Neumann created an interactive map illustrating ancient Antioch’s changing political and economic relationships over time. Courtesy Kristina Neumann and the University of Cincinnati.

Digital Humanities research—research that employs cutting-edge computing technologies to study disciplines in the humanities—has allowed researchers to examine ancient political structures with a broader perspective. So believes Kristina Neumann, doctoral candidate at the University of Cincinnati, who created an interactive map illustrating ancient Antioch’s changing political and economic relationships over time using the popular Google Earth software. Her research, described in a press release from the University of Cincinnati, reveals that ancient Antioch—a Syrian city that played a vital role in the emergence of Hellenistic Judaism and early Christianity—had greater political influence over the region and a wider trading network than previously thought.

Neumann created an extensive database of Antiochene coins and coin hoards dating from the late third century B.C.E. to the early fifth century C.E as well as non-Antiochene coins excavated at ancient Antioch. The database recorded information such as where each coin was found, when it was minted and under which ruler it was made. Neumann then imported the data into Google Earth.

After leaving Antioch, Paul traveled to the heart of Anatolia. Take a look at the route of his missionary journey in a web-exclusive slideshow of photographs by BAR author Mark R. Fairchild.


The spread of Antiochene coinage as well as foreign coins found at ancient Antioch illustrate how well connected the ancient Syrian city was. Courtesy Kristina Neumann.

In an email to Bible History Daily, Neumann explained that her map visualizes what scholars have long theorized—that Antioch was well-connected with the rest of the Mediterranean. Neumann observed that Antiochene coins moved in a strong progression out of the city and east along the Orontes River during the first century B.C.E. through the first century C.E., while foreign coins excavated at Antioch originated along the coast of Asia Minor and into the southern Levant. The patterns that emerge from Neumann’s map illustrate Antioch’s continued influence over select regions and cities in spite of its absorption into the Roman state—and that it took much longer for Rome to rein in the influence Antioch held as the former capital of the Seleucid Kingdom.

Neumann describes how Google Earth Pro has benefited her project:

On a macro scale, Google Earth helps me take account of a vast territory and large chronological periods. You can actually see how Antioch’s original territory as Seleucid capital is hedged in once the Romans enter the area. Instead of imperial capital, Antioch’s coins show the effects of becoming a provincial capital.

On a micro scale, Google Earth allows a more nuanced look at the material of the city and region. I can easily chart the origin for all foreign coins found in the 1930s Princeton excavations at Antioch. This shows how accessible Antioch was to the eastern Mediterranean coast.

Neumann presented her findings at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Chicago last week in a talk titled “Using Google Earth to Visualize an Ancient City’s Influence: Roman Antioch.” She was assisted in her research by University of Cincinnati senior research associate John Wallrodt.

Read the press release from the University of Cincinnati.

Interested in archaeological technology? Visit the BAS Archaeological Technology page for more articles on the 21st-century archaeological toolkit, as well as a FREE eBook on Cyber-Archaeology.


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  1. BHD says

    Interesting topic; wish there was more to see on the presentation than the Cincy logo and/or black box. I expect Cristina Neumann put in considerable effort on the project.

  2. Rob says

    Sending copy of this to a friend in Antioch Illinois, a town which has in no way the same history. All this makes me wonder of the desires and wishes of these cities to get rid of Imperial Rome, which to them must have been a royal pain in the rear, with their “protection” and tax collectors and soldados.. I could set up a scenario whereby Paul and Peter were sent as spys or foreign agents to proceed to undermine and divert Rome which had moved in and intercepted regional commerce. Was religion a political tool exploited here? Indeed, Rome did collapse not too long after their arrival.

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