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Title: Testing the edges: digital approaches to maritime networks
Abscract: The mystery cult of the Great Gods of Samothrace offered its initiates safety in travel at sea, a practical benefit core to Greek economic and ecological strategies. The intersection of the mystic and the maritime raises the hypothesis that the rites worked, and its initiates in fact traveled a safer sea than their counterparts. Digital technologies offer new frameworks for testing this hypothesis, building on the epigraphic record in which Samothrace is especially rich. These yield the names of some 900 individuals and 109 cities, connected through initiation, proxenia and theoria. The data suggest a complex network of social experience and obligation. The promises made mystical in the context of initiation were potentially realized through very common interstate strategies, and turned an island whose only resource was its location into the mistress of divinely assured maritime safety. The resilience of that status is best gauged through an approach that integrates the cultural, environmental, and civic factors in the island’s networks. The Samothrace Mariner Project has brought the site’s epigraphic record into geospatial and network analysis, using ArcGIS, Gephi, and gamification of the data. The resulting models are productive in identifying centers for closer local analysis to reveal the dynamics of ‘strong ties’ which would inform the emergence of dynamic, durable nodes. They also foreground the limitations and caveats of quantitative analysis based on fragmentary and contested data, and so recommend the potential of 3D interactive simulations for an archaeology of cult.
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