Data-Driven Research on Ancient Syria

Sponsored by the HPE Data Science Institute and the Humana Institute, the 2020 Pharis Fellowship Program is open for undergraduate student applicants.


Syrios Project

University of Houston professors presented a seminar at the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Data Science Institute’s Seminar Series that discussed the intersection of coins and digital methodologies. The experts’ research aimed to reconstruct identity and evolving patterns of political exchange within ancient Syria. The professors used HPE Data Science Institute’s resources to cross-reference the coins.

Modern-day Syria is vastly different from ancient Syria. Professors in the humanities continue to analyze these differences and connect the timeline of Syria’s cultural evolution. Kristina Neumann, Ph.D., assistant professor of Roman and digital history, explained the different sizes and denominations of digital coinage and how currency pertains to the city of Antioch, located in present-day Turkey.

“These coins helped us recognize Antioch’s importance and how the city developed over time and space … Since I was a digital novice at the beginning of this undertaking, I tried color coding on paper and working outside of a digital code,” Neumann said. The difficulties were daunting, and Neumann learned that data analysis would resolve the problem of categorizing the coinage.

Peggy Lindner, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of information and logistics technology, delivered key points and notable advice pertaining to the humanities and data science.

“There are two things to remember about how to start a conversation with an expert in the humanities about data science. First, meet them where they are. Second, inspire them to think creatively about their data,” Lindner said.

Neumann and Lindner hope to continue using this interesting piece of data science while sharing with their peers the importance of ancient Syrian identity and heritage.