The Project


The impact of the transport infrastructures in the development of countries and territories is one of the most current topics in the European policies[1]. Behind the design and construction of a new infrastructure, different reasons can be found. The reasons that push the construction of new infrastructures are not always based on economic criteria. From Roman times to the present, there have been many political, social and obviously economic conditions that influenced the location and construction of new public works projects.

The Mercator-e project is designed to analyse the social, political and economical repercussions of the construction of transport infrastructures during several periods in the Iberian Peninsula. An integrated approach joining multi-proxy analysis (SNA applied to the network centrality, TNA to analyse transport costs & times, demography studies, interpolation and map algebra) and the study of archaeo-historical sources will be applied in different historical periods. The Iberian Peninsula is a perfect territory for analysing the impact of infrastructures due to its geographical morphology. This is because it is sufficiently extensive and in turn, only connected to the rest of the continent through a restricted zone that makes it a virtually isolated territory and shaped in itself. Historically, the Iberian Peninsula has had periods with very different political ideologies about the role and needs of infrastructure that will be analysed in this project: 1) The Roman era, a remote metropolis with clear intentions of economic exploitation. 2) The Middle Ages with great political fragmentation, territorial consolidations and periods of war, the so called ‘Reconquista’ and between the several newly emerged kingdoms. 3) The Modern Era, where Spain and Portugal conquered and dominated much of the overseas territories in America and in Africa and where large centralised royalties appeared. 4) The XIXth Century and the emergence of a new means of transport, the railroad.

Analysing the transport communication networks in various time scopes will offer to the academic society new quantified data about the infrastructures morphology and their impact in the political and economical evolution of these territories.

Mercator-e will offer a new point of view and new data over the questions about i) the historical territorial organisation analysed from the morphology of the communication networks; ii) the characteristics of the commerce and its reflection in the economy and the society over time; iii) the impact of political decissions in infrastructures and in the economical development of the territories. With the results of this project, it will be possible to contribute to a better understanding of 1) the European mobility routes and patterns, 2) the European cultural heritage and 3) the formation of European identities and cultures, all of them research poles recommended by the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme.

This project offers a new approach to the study and knowledge of the historical infrastructures. From the analysis of the infrastructures with Network Analysis, a set of completely new data could be generated to understand and visualise the transport evolution and the territorial configuration.

The use of Network Analysis in both archeology and historical studies hasn’t had much diffusion, although the dissemination of GIS in recent years is attracting new interest in these methodologies. The Orbis project ( from the Stanford University is maybe one of the clearest examples, but not the only one. The Portus Limen project (, led by the University of Southampton and also another project is being launched based on transport time analysis in Antiquity led by Prof. Klaus Gent from the University of Berlin within the TOPOI research group. The project entitled “Complexity and Networks in the Medieval Mediterranean and Near East (COMMED)” from the Austrian Academy of Sciences also uses Network Analysis to analyse the geography and connectivity of the Medieval ports. For the modern era, there is a project that cover Portugal, Spain, and the Atlantic using network analyses: the “DynCoopNet” ( For Contemporary times, “HGISe: una plataforma para el análisis de los transportes, la población y datos socioeconómicos de Europa (1850-2010). Los casos de Inglaterra & Gales y la Península Ibérica” o “The High-Speed Rail Network in Europe and its role in European Integration” leaded from the Univ. of Lleida. These research groups apply Network Analysis in different ways depending on their respective research topics and interests. However, the joint contribution in this regard is encouraging a quick and interesting evolution of the results and their application in Historical research.

Parallel to the methodological interest of this project, also in recent years the analysis of transport infrastructures is being growing. This interest in transport is being approached from the search of new ways to quantify certain aspects of the historical economy[2]. In both cases, this project will provide a new perspective on this issue and will place this research into international research circles. Importantly, this project will provide an overview of the possible quantified cost and time of transporting certain goods throughout the communication networks by land, river and sea in the Iberian Peninsula during some periods of time. These data may be used for projects of many different disciplines to compare distributions of commodities with their transportation costs. It will also serve to analyse the spatial configuration of the different Iberian territories, taking into account the location of major cities, the establishment of administrative borders or the evolution of those territories.


[1] Green Paper “TEN-T: A policy review – Towards a better integrated trans-European transport network at the service of the common transport policy” (2009) and New EU transport infrastructure policy – background (2013)

[2] Bang, PF.; Ikeguchi, M. and Ziche, HG. 2006. Ancient Economies, Modern Methodologies: Archaeology, Comparative History and Institutions. Bari; Bowman, A. and Wilson, A. 2009. op. cit.; De Callatay, F. (ed) 2014. Quantifying the Greco-Roman Economy and Beyond. Edipuglia. Bari; S.E.Alcock, J.Bodel, and R.J.A.Talbert 2012, Highways, Byways and Road Systems in the Pre-Modern World. Malden and Oxford.