Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

The Westminister Assembly Transcription Project is an effort to make the “unpublished manuscript writings of the Westminister Assembly and its members as freely and widely avaialable as possible.” Manuscripts written by members of the assembly were found, including correspondence, petitions, personal library lists, unpublished books, and early drafts of published works. This is not a commercialized program, and it is asking for the help of volunteers (scholar, pastor, graduate student, retiree or lay person) to help with the transcriptions.

If an individual wishes to be involved, he or she muswestminister assembly manuscriptt contact the Westminister Assembly Transcription Project, and will be given a test page to transcribe. If the page is found to have been relatively successfully transcribed, the individual will then  be given a manuscript to transcribe for the project. All completed pages will be advertised on the Westminister Assembly web site, added to the Westminister Assembly Digital Libaray (with the transcriber’s name included), and will be available to historians and scholars for purchase.

Read Full Post »

Family Tree DNA is a service that provides the latest technology for genealogical research. They offer one of the largest DNA databases out of any company in the DNA business, with a total of 263,316 to date. Of these, 166,100 are Y-DNA records (what we will be collecting in Venice!) and 97,216 are mtDNA records.

They work in association with a scientific advisory board and also the University of Arizona Research Labs. The Family Tree’s chief scientist is Dr. Michael Hammer, whose expertise lies in the study of the variations of the Y chromosome as a model system to explore human evolution.

Population geneticist are able to use variations on the Y chromosome to create a phylogenetic family tree. The changes in the genetic code are known as Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms  (SNPs), or simply base pair variations. Scientists are able to determine when these changes diverged from one another, and can subsequently create these elaborate family trees.

Human migration pattern according to Y-chromosome variations

Human migration pattern according to Y-chromosome variations

An SNP marks the a branch in the y-chromosome phylogenetic tree, and the branch points are known as haplogroups. These are named as A-T. The sub-branches are further known as subclades, which can also be tested by the Deep Clade Testing offered by the Family Tree DNA.

Origins are determined by the haplogroup: for example, Haplogroup E originated 50,000 years ago and has been linked to Neolithic expansion of peoples into Southern Europe.

Family Tree DNA actually provides the DNA tests to the Genographic Project, one of our sponsors. It might be worth our time to start a Venetian project with them, to specifically focus on the origins of its inhabitants.

Read Full Post »

All of the records of the ancient city of Venice are kept in the Venice State Archives. It was established in 1822 in order to “reconstruct the constitutional make-up of the Venetian Republic bringing together all the records produced by the Venetian magistrate back to the 7th century A.D.” The State Archives is the former convent of the Minor Friars at “I Frari.” It is one of the oldest archives in Italy. All of the documents housed at the archives are related to Venetian history, more than 1,o00 years of records. The shelves are about cover a combined distance of about 90km.

The Venice State Archives are important for three, very important reasons (among others!). The first is that they allow for the preservation of the entire history of the Venetian Republic, in document form. They also give historians an understanding of what it was like to be a Venetian, in a given time period. These documents explain things such as Venetian “boat-building, navigation techniques, knowledge of accounting…and warehousing methods.” Additionally, they show the close “network of linkages” between the famous Venetian artists and their many patrons. The art around the city can be greater understood with a deeper knowledge of the creators. One last reason is that these handwritten pages are important for the study of writing and for the study of writing mediums.

There was a project that lasted from 1995 to 1998 called the VENetIan Virtual Archive. It seems relatively similar to the Uscript program started by WPI IQP groups. Its main goal is to preserve and improve the system of consultation of all historical documents in the Venice State Archive, in addition to the Marciana National Library of Venice, the Cephalonia CounThis is one of the documents used on the VENIVA site, when talking about the War for Candiaty Archive and the Austrian State Archive. This program was to make an internet application that utilizes remote access to make these documents readily available to the public. Additionally, various “cultural institutions,” which includes libraries and other archives, will be able to access the application without charge, or a minimal fee for additional services. A paper published in 1997 talks about the software used to create this application. After perusing the site, it seems like an interactive history lesson that is based off of maps, letters and drawings (similar to the one shown) from was the participating archives.

Read Full Post »

Genetic Genealogy

The #mce_temp_url# project is split into various sub-projects.  These sub-projects, which include studying mtDNA and surnames, all aim at a similar task to the Genographic Project by National Geographic.  The project hopes to study the migration of humanity over time while at the same time providing a view of an individuals genealogy.

The study hopes to show the migration of mankind out of Africa starting between 50,000 and 200,000 years ago.  The technology that is used looks at the similarities between different regions mitochondrial DNA as well as minute mutations within the human genome that occur naturally over time.

The site includes a feature that allows the participants to track where they possibly came from, both in writing and shown on a map.  The map shows the highest concentrations of certain mutations and the different regions mitochondrial DNA.


Read Full Post »

Mitochondria DNA (mtDNA)

A founder effect occurs when a new colony is established by few members of an original population. The small original population reduces the genetic variation from the original population, resulting in a non-random sample of genes. The founder effect has been seen in several human populations. The Afrikaner population in South Africa, derived from Dutch decendants, experienced a founder effect when it’s population developed a high prevelance for Pseudoxanthoma elasticum, or PXE.

Similarly, the Amish population in the United States often features founder effects due to the lack of recruiting outside members, as many Amish people only marry within the community. Also, Icelanders have been an example of the founder effect. PloS Genetics claimed that genetic drift is the cause of the lack of mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) halotype derivation within the Iceland population.

So, does Venice, Italy, experience this founder effect? While the effect has been found prevelent in the Sicilian population in the form of Glycogen storage disease type II, there is no evidence that suggests that the founder’s effect is prevelant within the Venetian community. Perhaps Venice dodged the founder effect bullet because of the prevelance of crazed tourists. The shrinking population, or emigration from Venice, from the past half century may have also aided in Venice’s ability to dodge the founder effect.

Geographic Map Of Sicily

Read Full Post »

University of Arizona’s Michael Hammer, a population geneticist, has been investigating the migration of ancient Asians into the New World. Scientists are now investigating base pair variation or single nucleotide polymorphisms, to reconstruct family trees dating back thousands of years ago.

Homo erectus

Through research, Hammer has discovered a sequence on the X chromosome that suggests that modern humans that arrived in Asia bred with “archaic hominids” called Homo erectus. Hammer hopes that modern human DNA will contain small bits of information that can be used to trace back to the archaic form.

Hammer’s research tests the “Out of Africa” theory that modern humans (homo sapiens) evolved in Africa, and migrated into the rest of the world, replacing inferior species such as Homo erectus and the Neanderthals.

Hammer uses polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, to copy the samples of DNA that he takes from the Y chromosome, which is passed from father to son. The Y chromosome was believed to have no polymorphic diversity, but Hammer explained that is not entirely true. The Y chromosome does have diversity, one must look at hundreds of sequences to find these diversities however.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)

Hammer found polymorphisms in the Y chromosome and started to construct a family tree of these polymorphisms, which lead back to a comman African ancestor dating back over 100,000 years ago.

Hammer is continuing his research in hopes to trace the roots of humankind.

Read Full Post »

Etruscan Warrior

To this day, the origins of Venice remain somewhat of a mystery. Little historical information is available about the migration of peoples into the Veneto region, but that has not stopped historians from forming theories about the origins. According to Grant Allen, the origins of Venice are actually a story of refugee.

It is believed that the Veneto region was first occupied by an Etruscan population around 3000 BCE. Centuries later, the Veneti, an Illyrian tribe, became the primary inhabitants of the Veneto region. The country of Veneti was established after the nation was Romanized, and Padua was established as the capital.

Atilla's Invasion of Italy

In 453 ACE, Attila and the Huns invaded Italy, destroying Padua, and the anciet city of Altinum. Refugees from the cities fled to islands within the Italian lagoon, settling on an island called Torcello (commonly referred to as the Mother City of Venice). A second invasion in 568, by the Lombards, forced Romanized and Christian Veneti into the lagoon as well, settling in Rivo Alto, Malamocco, and Torcello. The refugees settled as far in as the Venezia islands, which now constitute modern day Venice.

Paulucius Anafestus is believed to have been the first Doge (or Duke) of lagoon nation, elected in the year 697. The Veneto region remained somewhat unscaved for the next several centuries, until Charlemagne founded the new Roman Empire in the west, in the eight century. The Venetians fled from Malamocco to Rivo Alto when King Pepin threatened to invade the lagoon, but were successful in defending their nation in 809.

The seat of government was moved from Malamocco to Rivo Alto (or Rialto), which is present day Venice. A new palace was constructed for Doge Angelus Participotius. Venice became very rich and prosperous, as it laid on a trade route between western and eastern Europe. Venice benefited from the crippling Crusades during the eleventh century, and continued to increase commerce and trade as it harbored all of Europe.

Read Full Post »

This website has everything you could want to know about Italian underwater archaeology. It provides not only news, but also research into studies and current legislation. This wealth of information is focused on the Adriatic Sea, the triveneto, and the cities of Venice and Vicenza.

The labyrinth of links would take weeks to fully explore, but here I will highlight a few of the the most relevant ones.

Venice and the Islands displays articles ranging as far back as 1978 to 2003. One of The Venice Project Center’s greatest resources, Marco Bortoletto himself, can be found among the list of authors featured here. This is a great place to see what the experts are actually saying on the issues pertaining to our project.

Archeolex outlines the laws and regulations that affect underwater archaeology. Some of these even have further links to law books. Very detailed information, might be a good place to look for statistics or concrete factoids.

Even the links page itself has endless information.

Read Full Post »

Open Context is a free resource that allows its users to input primary field research data from archaeology and related fields. By making this data easily available electronically, it can be found and reused in the future by others without any hassle.

Open Context hosts many different projects, with different methodologies, recording systems, and temporal and geographic coverage. It also uses many web-services so that data can be transfered back and forth between Open Context and other applications. Perhaps a very unique aspect of this service is the way in which it facilitates information retrieval by the use of Archaeological Markup Language (ArchaeoML). This system uses an item-based information model, where individual atomic units of observation are related to each other and their descriptions. This allows for deeper searching, with a variety of linked relationships displayed, not only the very obvious.

A myriad of projects are already displayed in Open Context, from the Iraq Heritage Program to the Petra Great Temple Excavations. It is feasible to see a Venetian Heritage Program on this growing web application in the near future, to be modified and accessed by archaeologists as well as the curious public.

Example of database image: Petra Great Temple Site, Aerial View

Example of database image: Petra Great Temple Site, Aerial View

Read Full Post »

ArcheoRisk is the name given to the Decision Support System, created by a team of experts in Venice to manage the 250+ submerged archaeological sites in the Venetian Lagoon. These sites contain information that is very important to understanding the origins of Venice, and their loss to environmental and/or human factors would be irreplaceable. This system relies on Arcview release 3.2, a Geographical Information System platform.

The first part of the DSS is the assessment of archaeological risk. This, in turn, is based on two databases, an archaeological one and an environmental one. The archaeological database collects information from around 250 sites in the lagoon and reports various relevant data, like coordinates, arch. value, and survey data. The environmental database contains relevant maps with factors considered risk sources, like erosion and fishing activities of that area.

A risk assessment model was then created to analyze this data and determine which sites are most in need of intervention.

Risk Assessment Methodology

Risk Assessment Model

The selection of intervention is finally decided by an Intervention selection matrix. Its intent is to select the best safety measures according to the most relevant risk sources and location of the archaeological site. The DSS was tested by the Council for Cultural Heritage and proved to be very useful in determining the risk of fishing activities to various sites and implementing a new regulatory plan.

This study uses current technology to model already existing data, one of our ultimate goals. It might be very interesting and worth our time to combine the archaeological data available to our team with the Archeorisk module. The results might reveal much about Venice that was previously lost in the piles of unused records.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »