Geopedia, Pompeii, and Spatial Analysis

There is an excellent German website that combines Bing’s maps with wikipedia’s articles:  Like videos, this is a great tool to take students on a virtual field trip.  For example, in my Roman Archaeology class, I asked students to visit this site at home, explore the excavated area of Pompeii, and answer a few questions on an assignment sheet (pompeiispatialanalysisassignment).  After a brief explanation of spatial analysis (so, more or less, looking at the distance between sites and the ease of movement from one place to another), this assignment sheet asked some factual questions, and other questions that encouraged students to think about spatial analysis.  After answering these questions, students took an online quiz based on the first set of factual questions–the second set of spatial analysis questions was not graded or assessed with the online quiz.  This second set of questions tried to get students thinking about how to analyze maps of archaeological sites and it primed them for a class discussion about spatial analysis in Pompeii–where this type of analysis has been particularly fruitful.

geopedia Pompeii.png

In class, we discussed how spatial analysis has helped us understand the lived experience of Pompeii.  This discussion also allowed me to introduce various types of buildings: bakeries, fulleries, and fountains. Since the spatial analysis seemed to overwhelm some students, because of the level of the course, and because of what I wanted students to get out of the lesson, I told them that they only needed to know the conclusions from this analysis, not be able to reproduce it.

Things to Consider

  • Spatial analysis will confuse some students and is still not necessarily obvious from geopedia, but this is one of the best ways to let students play around and actively engage with maps of ancient sites.  So also remember to be clear about what you will assess students on: factual information, preliminary spatial analysis, and/or conclusions.
  • The assignments involving geopedia should be fairly structured so that students are guided through a difficult new skill or topic.
  • Geopedia is not GoogleEarth. Geopedia helps students identify sites from aerial images and provides information about sites in the same screen as the map. Google Earth does not necessarily provide these same clues and combination of information, but it does seem a bit easier to move around the map than geopedia.
  • Geopedia will not work well with every archaeological site or city.  Pompeii works well because it does not feature as many buildings from wikipedia as the Forum Romanum does.  It also features only buildings from AD 79 instead of from the 10th Cent. BC to the present day, like the Campus Martius in Rome. It allows you to focus in on what may be relevant and important for your course, instead of being distracted by a medieval church that (even though it’s very nice and interesting) is not necessarily relevant to your course.
  • The lesson plan here is still a work in progress.

6 thoughts on “Geopedia, Pompeii, and Spatial Analysis

  1. I like this, Dave. It provides a different perspective and challenges all students, and might especially appeal to those students who respond to spatial and visual instruction and learning.


  2. You work makes me proud and very happy. Wish my kids could join one of your classes…
    – the guy who developed geopedia 🙂 –


    1. Thank you very much for this comment. Geopedia is a great tool and has so many great potential uses! Thank you for developing it and I’d be happy to have your kids in one of my classes 🙂


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