Skip to main content

QUANTIFYING THE IMPACT OF TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURES: NETWORK ANALYSIS APPLIED TO THE DIACHRONICALLY STUDY OF THE IBERIAN PENINSULA (From Roman Times to XIXth Century)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Mercator-e (QUANTIFYING THE IMPACT OF TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURES:NETWORK ANALYSIS APPLIED TO THE DIACHRONICALLY STUDYOF THE IBERIAN PENINSULA (From Roman Times to XIXth Century))

Reporting period: 2016-10-01 to 2018-09-30

The project
The Mercator-e project had been designed to analyse the evolution of the transport network of the Iberian Peninsula through several periods. The transport infrastructures reflect the political and economic interests and allow to visualise the changes and evolutions of design strategies among the time. Each political system has a different politics about territorial integration, economical production and redistribution and they can be understood through the study of the transport networks.
The Mercator-e project has been focused on the study of the Iberian Peninsula due to some important reasons. Geographically, this territory is an almost close area which implies that the most part of its borders doesn’t connect with other territories. And chronologically, the Iberian Peninsula has a broad temporal framework which allow observing how transport networks were configured at different historical moments with diverse political systems and economic systems.

Impact on society
The design of new transport infrastructures and their impact on the development of the different territories is one of the concerns of the European configuration. Being able to observe the effect that different policies and investments in infrastructures had in a wide territory can help to better understand the impact of new projects. The results of this project offers to research and society the most recent compilation about transport networks in four historical periods of the Iberian Peninsula. Many historical research projects require the use of transport networks in some of their stages. This project offers to all these studies an incredibly updated and detailed data that can be incorporated directly into their work environments. Finally, the results of the project about the configuration of the networks and transport costs offer a new set of useful data for the historical study of the historical economy.

General objectives
The Mercator-e project has been configured to answer 5 specific research objectives.
1) To digitally document the historical transport network in the Iberian Peninsula (by land, river and sea) considering all the available resources and creating a new digital model.
2) To analyse the connectivity of the Iberian Peninsula networks to understand how the territories were configured.
3) The functionality of the transport systems based on the modeling of the transport networks time costs and economic expenses needed to move merchandises within territories.
4) The impact of the Iberian Transport Networks through time. The scientific conclusion of the project, with the final results and the historical interpretations of this research.
5) Diffusion of methodologies and results.
The Mercator-e project was designed with the aim of creating a scientific and useful set of historical transport networks. From the creation of a transport geodatabase it is possible to analyse the territorial configuration and the transport costs and times needed to travel and trade throughout all the Iberian Peninsula.

Over 227,000 kilometres of transport networks that cover the entire Iberian Peninsula from Roman times to the 19th century have been digitized including land routes, navigable rivers and maritime communications. Each road section with chronological information was digitised with the highest possible precision to adapt the routes to its geographical reality. Mercator-e’s data together with data provided by other 11 research teams conformed a Historical GeoDataBase where all the information has been stored. As a final result, the project has created the most extensive, detailed and updated historical transport network of the Iberian Peninsula compiled until now. Proof of that is the great acceptance of the networks and the continued requests to reuse the Mercator-e data (19 different projects have reused Mercator-e’s data).

This project has applied innovative methods to analyse the complexity of multi-modal historical transport networks organization using weighted networks to value the territorial configuration of each time period. At the same time, Mercator-e has established contacts with the Complexity Lab Barcelona (University of Barcelona) to develop new calculations about the configuration of the Roman transport system of the Iberian Peninsula have been obtained and will be disseminated.

To analyse the time expenses and travel costs of diverse historical transport networks, Mercator-e has combined highly detailed transport networks, historical data about transport and travel and relief data to develop a working model that simulates the historical transport systems. With all these calculations, it has been possible to calculate and visualise the costs and times for the distribution of products in the Iberian Peninsula.

Thanks to all the calculations made until the end of the project, we have been able to obtain a set of very interesting information about the territorial configuration of the Iberian Peninsula in each of the studied periods.
One of the main objectives of the Mercator-e Project was the creation of a database on historical transportation routes in the Iberian Peninsula that would allow, on the one hand, a first approach of researchers who have worked on this subject with digital technologies and secondly, the creation of a tool that allows the reuse of the data generated in this project. During the first year of the project, several researchers were contacted to publicise the Mercator-e project and the possibility of sharing their generated data. The response was very positive, reaching 11 teams and researchers who generously contributed to the creation of transport networks with their data. During the second year, the process was the reverse, where with little dissemination, up to 19 researchers and international projects required the use of the networks generated within the framework of the Mercator-e project.

The interest generated by the topic and methodology of the Mercator-e project has been reflected in the continuous invitations and acceptances in congresses and international scientific meetings. Since the beginning of the project, 15 conferences have been held in different countries, among which the participation in the 19th International Congress of Classical Archeology (Cologne / Bonn 2018), in the CAA 2018 (Tübingen) or in the 24th European Association of Archaeologists stand out Annual Meeting (Barcelona). An invitation to participate in the Roman Discussion Forum of the University of Oxford (January 2019) has also recently been received. Within the framework of this project, the structure for the organization of an annual workshop on historic transport has been created. The first workshop was held at the Universidade Nova of Lisbon (Transport and Trade through Time - I, 2018) and 6 specialists on transport in Roman times took part. The second workshop is already being organized and will be hosted by the same university focused on transportation in the 19th century.

The development of Mercator-e has been also fruitful in publications. Even most of them will appear during 2019, Pau de Soto has written up to 8 different papers and book chapters which have some kind of relationship with Mercator-e.

Finally, thanks to Mercator-e, Pau de Soto has been awarded with fundings to develop 2 other interesting projects: Itiner-e (4000 GBP) and Catalan Four-years Research Project Grants in Archaeology and Paleontology (20000€)