ORBIS shows what would have been the fastest route between Rome and modern-day London during the time of the Roman Empire.
A new online tool, made by a team of historians and information technology specialists at Stanford University, shows just how long and costly it was to send people and wheat between cities in the Roman Empire. "It's Google Maps for the ancient world, complete with the 'Avoid Highways' feature," Scott Weingart, a doctoral student in library sciences at the University of Indiana, wrote in a blog-post review. Weingart was not involved in creating the tool, called ORBIS, but its creators asked him to preview and comment on it. His review appeared May 4 in the Editor's Choice column in Digital Humanities Now.
A paper map can show how far two cities are from one another, but in a world of sailing ships and donkey trains, the shortest route wasn't necessarily the one people would use. ORBIS shows likely routes based on conditions 2,000 years ago. The ORBIS team used ancient maps and records, modern-day weather measurements and modern-day historians' experiments with trying to sail in Roman-style ships to inform their calculations.