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Building a Digital DataBase and Preliminary Results

In the previous blogpost, we identified and agreed on an interesting problematic for our project,  as well as a methodology to try and answer to the latter. The success of the proposed methodology was conditioned by our ability to digitize the numerous auction values for the Incanto Venetian system, referenced in the book ofDoris Stöckly [1].  To efficiently construct our database, we decided to set up a crowdsourcing initiative. This crowdsourcing involved 10 different persons, subset of the larger group of 15 persons that we initially surveyed. Among the 5 persons that did not participate to the crowdsourcing,  one refused the task and 4 did not provide any answer to our proposal. Goodies were promised to the participants as an incentive to take part to the experiment (swiss chocolate 🙂 ).

Each participant received a pdf scan of one table of data and had to transcript it in an Excel sheet. To guide them in their task and ensure an homogeneous format for the transcripted data, we wrote a procedure with examples and recommendations on the way to proceed in case of an ambiguous data. The procedure is available below.


Once we received the Excel sheets from the participants, we merged them in a single database, and cleaned the data from any left ambiguity. To facilitate the analysis of the results, we converted all the auction values to a single currency, the italian lire. The rates for the differents currencies and the lire are given in the following table:

Currency Conversion in lire
Soldi 0.05
Denarii 0.004
Ducats 2.4

Source: and

Finally, we identified five interesting time periods to study the evolution of the auctions and summed all the data within each of these periods.

An exploratory analysis of the digitized and pre-processed data is available on the following figures. We observe that four maritime routes share most of the commercial traffic on the entire period 1332-1454. It would be then interesting to cross validate this empirical observation with some historic evidence validating the observation; it will be done in the final post. This would also help us better understand the potential bias of our data towards certain maritime routes (the data for some routes might have been more difficult to collect, resulting in an underrepresentation of these roads in the dataset).

Figure 1 – Total values for each Incanti routes
Figure X - Total values for each Incanti routes
Figure 2 – Relative importance of each maritime routes
From To
Romanie Venice Black Sea
Chypre Venice Cyprus /Beirut
Alexandrie Venice Alexandria
Beyrouth Venice Beirut
Flandres Venice Brugge/London
Aigues-Mortes Venice Valencia
Barbarie Venice Tunis/Cadix/Malaga

Table – Starting and end point of the maritime routes.

By additioning all the auction values of all the Incanti journeys during these five periods, for each route, we obtain the following chart:

Figure 3 – Evolution of the total auction values over 5 historical periods

Different observations can be done based on this graph. Only basic observations are proposed here without comparing these results with historical considerations. This requires more time and more knowledges about the Venice History. This will be done for the last interpretation (final presentation). So, what can we observe on this graph?

  • The route “Alexandrie” shows a non uniform increase of the total auction values. After the war of 1350-1355, the increase is slower than before. This route is always the most commonly used. It will be interesting to analyse why and what types of goods are transported through it.
  • The route “Beyrouth” is an important one and also shows increases until 1430. After this point, we observe a small decrease until 1454. Unlike the “Alexandrie” route, the fastest increase is observed after the war of 1350-1355. Why? It would need further investigations.
  • The route “Flandres” is the third important route during the whole Incanti era.
  • The route “Chypre” shows a decrease until 1382. From 1382 to 1403, this route is no more used. This will also need a specific historical analysis.
  • Finally, the routes “Aigues-Mortes” and “Barbarie” begin later and they are the least important ones.

By crossing these purely cartesian considerations with historical facts, we will be completely in the field of the Digital Humanities process. This job will be ours until the final presentation to permit to conclude this project.

Figure 4 – The Digital Humanities scheme

Our wish is that the analysis of the information about the Incanti, one system used by the Republic of Venice, will permit to give us more feeling about the commercial relations in the Mediterranean during the Middle Age. Moreover, this cross-analysis (Incanti statistics and Venetian History) will probably permit to better understand the fluctuations of the venetian economy during the Middle Age.


  • To analyse the Incanti data with historical knowledges about Venice;
  • To Propose visual representation of the Incanti data that will show our conclusions;
  • Redaction of the final report;
  • Creation of the poster for the presentation.


[1] Le système de l’Incanto des galées du marché à Venise: fin XIIIe – milieu XVe siècle of Doris Stöckly

[2] Web-SIG of the EPFL Digital Humanities Lab,