Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The origins of Venice

As announced in a June post, and reiterated in a more recent entry about my mentor Count Marcello, one of the projects this fall will be on "The origins of Venice". The plan is to explore three aspects:

  1. the archeological records about the early history of the city,
  2. the genesis of the "Forma Urbis", and
  3. the genetic origins of the Venetian people

As is the case for all 2008 projects, the team will: (a) review what we've done thus far on the topics, (b) organize and visualize what we have, (c) integrate or complete what we started where possible, (d) identify mechanisms for future updates, (e) propose follow-ups where appropriate, and (f) identify funding sources that will allow us to get the job done.

As mentioned in the june post, we plan to help Tito Canal release his opus magnum this year as his lifetime legacy, which will fit nicely with our 20th anniversary as well, since we made the first GIS map of the lagoon for him in 1990 (under DOS!). The 1990 project was also the first Venice IQP to win the President's IQP award, when John Strauss was WPI's president. We would also like to collaborate with the Soprintendenza Archeologica, with the City's Public Works department and with Insula to create a system that will harvest the data contained in the myriad of reports and surveys that are produced every time any digging takes place for any underground urban maintenance work.

With the archeological information as a foundation, we could continue the work we started in 1999 and especially the more recent 2004 study, wherein we attempted to reconstruct how Venice's islands"grew" and evolved since the early days of the Rivo Alto colonization in the year 810.

As described in a recent entry, we will also plan to retrace the "origins of the Venetians" through DNA. Count Marcello, and representatives of other ancient Venetian families could provide us with samples of true Venetian genes. Then we'd have to go to the various locales that have been mentioned as possible origins of or ethnic group, such as northtern Anatolia, and obtain representative samples from the "original inhabitants" there to compare to the Venetian DNA. We will explore all the most recent developments in this area, like the Personal Genome project and others to determine the feasibility and cost of such an effort, so that a follow-up project (MQP?) can be arranged.

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