Dochula Pass, Bhutan

Picture of the page in action.
>> See the chronology
>> See the maps

This blog post introduces the first of a set of historical maps of Europe that can be displayed at the same scale so that you can compare political or ethnographic boundaries from one time to the next. The first set covers the period from 362 AD to 830 AD.

A key aim here is to allow you to switch from map to map and see how boundaries evolve across an unchanging background.

The information in the maps is derived mostly from information in Colin McEvedy’s excellent series of books, in particular (so far) The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History, but also sometimes brings in information from the Times History of Europe. Boundaries are approximate for a number of reasons: first, in the earlier times especially, the borders were only approximate anyway, second, I have deduced the boundary information from small-scale maps and (so far) only a little additional research, third, the sources sometimes differ about where boundaries lay. I hope to refine the data during future research, in the meantime take this information as grosso modo.

The link below the picture takes you to a chronological summary of events that lie behind the changes in the maps. Click on the large dates to open maps in a separate window. (Note that all maps will open in that window, and you may have to ensure that it isn’t hidden behind the chronology page.)

The background to the SVG overlay is a map that shows relief and rivers, as well as modern country boundaries (the dark lines). These were things which, as good as McEvedy’s maps were, I was always missing in order to get useful reference points. Since the outlines and text are created in SVG, you can zoom in to see details.

This is just the first stage, and the maps are still largely first drafts. The plan is to refine the details for existing maps and add many more. So far we only deal with Europe. In the future I’d like to deal with other places, if I can find sources.

Picture of the page in action.

UniView now supports the characters introduced for the beta version of Unicode 9. Any changes made during the beta period will be added when Unicode 9 is officially released. (Images are not available for the Tangut additions, but the character information is available.)

It also brings in notes for individual characters where those notes exist, if Show notes is selected. These notes are not authoritative, but are provided in case they prove useful.

A new icon was added below the text area to add commas between each character in the text area.

Links to the help page that used to appear on mousing over a control have been removed. Instead there is a noticeable, blue link to the help page, and the help page has been reorganised and uses image maps so that it is easier to find information. The reorganisation puts more emphasis on learning by exploration, rather than learning by reading.

Various tweaks were made to the user interface.

Picture of the page in action.

I’ve been doing more work on the Egyptian Hieroglyph picker over the weekend.

The data behind the keyword search has now been completely updated to reflect descriptions by Gardiner and Allen. If you work with those lists it should now be easy to locate hieroglyphs using keywords. The search mechanism has also been rewritten so that you don’t need to type keywords in a particular order for them to match. I also strip out various common function words and do some other optimisation before attempting a match.

The other headline news is the addition of various controls above the text area, including one that will render MdC text as a two-dimensional arrangement of hieroglyphs. To do this, I adapted WikiHiero’s PHP code to run in javascript. You can see an example of the output in the picture attached to this post. If you want to try it, the MdC text to put in the text area is:
anx-G5-zmA:tA:tA-nbty-zmA:tA:tA-sw:t-bit:t-< -zA-ra:.-mn:n-T:w-Htp:t*p->-anx-D:t:N17-!

The result should look like this:

Picture of hieroglyphs.

Other new controls allow you to convert MdC text to hieroglyphs, and vice versa, or to type in a Unicode phonetic transcription and find the hieroglyphs it represents. (This may still need a little more work.)

I also moved the help text from the notes area to a separate file, with a nice clickable picture of the picker at the top that will link to particular features. You can get to that page by clicking on the blue Help box near the bottom of the picker.

Finally, you can now set the text area to display characters from right to left, in right-aligned lines, using more controls > Output direction. Unfortunately, i don’t know of a font that under these conditions will flip the hieroglyphs horizontally so that they face the right way.

For more information about the new features, and how to use the picker, see the Help page.