Mapping Past Societies (MAPS)


Mapping Past Societies (MAPS), formerly the Digital Atlas for Roman and Medieval Civilizations, makes freely available on the internet the best available materials for a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) approach to mapping and spatial analysis of the Roman and medieval worlds, and beyond. MAPS allows innovative spatial and temporal analyses of all aspects of the civilizations of western Eurasia in the first 1500 years of our era, as well as the generation of original maps illustrating differing aspects of ancient and medieval civilization. 

A work in progress with no claim to definitiveness, MAPS has been built by a dedicated team of Harvard undergraduates, graduate students, research scholars and one professor, with some valuable contributions from younger and more senior scholars at other institutions.

Begun in 2007, the web-based version was constructed with ESRI’s ArcGIS software products. We expect that MAPS will continue to grow, as generous colleagues prepare new materials which can be added to those already up and available on the web. Those who are interested in contributing such materials are encouraged to contact us at maps[at]

MAPS also seeks to further the development of scholarship by releasing free historical data in a variety of common formats including shapefile (.shp), and Excel (.xlsx). Scholars around the world are free to download and use MAPS data in their own work. Current offerings include database of shipwrecks in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe between 0-1500 and a shapefile version of the Roman Road network based on the Barrington Atlas which can be integrated into existing historical GIS projects.

We hope that as MAPS grows over time, its contribution will be recognized as of a piece with the other signal advances of Harvard University’s Center for Geographic Analysis for the free flow of new scholarly and scientific data around the globe.