Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Sean M. WINSLOW, Zentrum für Informationsmodellierung, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz

Relatively little work to date has focused on how to describe the decorative schemes of Ethiopian bindings. My monograph work synthesized published lists of blind tooling stamp names and added previously-undescribed stamps to the list, but the number of undescribed tools, and whether or not tool shapes or patterns follow any kind of pattern that might be dateable or localizable is currently unknown. In this paper, I will present my work on an ontology of Ethiopian binding decorations, arising from my Madgwas: Ethiopian Binding Decorations database, hosted by the University of Graz. Madgwas is an rdf-driven database which allows for rich linking of data between images, concepts, and descriptions of individual tools (e.g. the ‘Ram’s Horn’ tool, which is known as qärnä bəʿə and stylistically related to the cross of the same name). The ontology both describes and reflects patterns that are discoverable through querying the Madgwas database, developed from facet-based searches, including all tools of a specific category, all impressions on a particular manuscript, or all datable impressions from a time period. The use of a flexible, rdf-based ontology also allows sematic connections to be made with terminology used by scholars and museum professionals working in non-Ethiopian contexts, without privileging foreign concepts or style descriptors. Not only will the ontology be extensible, but the accompanying database should serve users with other needs related to the decoration of Ethiopian bindings, whose work can be semantically linked back to improve the system. In this paper I will present the current state of the ontology, how to use it, and ways that it might be utilized by or semantically linked to related work.