Place Name Ranking to indicate Certainty of location

  1. The ancient name and the modern name are equivalent (100%)

    The ancient place name and obvious derivatives of it have been recorded as the name of one specific place throughout its use and the site shows continuous occupation under the name since first use. (E.g. Londium)

  2. No uncertainty, but the ancient and modern name aren't equivalent (90%)

    1. Ancient and modern name are different but no doubt they refer to the same place As per (1) except that there was a significant change in name (E.g Eboracum & York) or a significant gap in occupation or a significant change in location such that the present settlement of the name does not overlap the ancient one. Or where the original name is attested by multiple unambiguous inscriptions.

    2. The modern name derives from the ancient, but they refer to different places As per (1) but the area of settlement has changed such that the modern name refers to a different place compared to the ancient name.

    3. No uncertainty, but the settlement was abandoned and the name was lost

      Multiple unambiguous inscriptions at the location at a site where the name had fallen out of use by the time detailed and accurate maps were produced.

  3. There is strong evidence for the ancient name & it is reasonably securely geographically located in some way. (80%)

    The evidence linking name to site is secure and there is no reason to doubt it, but it is possible to envisage an unlikely scenario which would mean the name or location was wrong. This would be used where it would take an exceptional combination of events to be wrong.

    1. Where there is a lack of continuous documentary evidence, but the general area of the ancient settlement is known and there is a single modern place name within the area which is obviously the same (and not created to be the same).

    2. Where the original name was not geographically tied down and whilst recognisable as the same, there is a significant difference between this form and later securely located forms.

    3. Where the original name is attested by single unambiguous inscriptions found in situ (and it is not possible to rule out that the inscription was moved at some point)

    4. Where the original name is attested by multiple, but ambiguous inscriptions which in combination are as strong as a single unambiguous inscription.

    5. The name is located securely by an unambiguous geographical reference (or multiple references amounting to the same).

    6. The name is located securely by an uncorrupted text giving distance and direction from a more secure site or by multiple texts (or multiple distance/directions in the same text) with some errors, but there are no obvious errors relating to this location and no significant conflicts in the location from the texts.

  4. There is good evidence for the ancient name & it is geographically located in some way. (70%)

    The evidence linking name to site must be good, but due to ambiguities or lack of evidence, there are realistic scenarios which would mean the name or location was wrong. For example: a single text with errors, but not obviously for this place. There is no reason to believe there is an error, but if it would be difficult to spot an error so it cannot be ruled out.

    1. Where there is a lack of continuous documentary evidence, but the general area of the ancient settlement is known and there is a single modern place name within the area which is largely the same (and not created to be the same).

    2. Where there is a lack of continuous documentary evidence and the area is unsure, but there is a single modern place name within the area which is obviously the same (and not created to be the same).

    3. Where the original name was not geographically tied down and it is largely the same as later securely located forms.

    4. Where the original name is attested by single ambiguous inscriptions and there is other supporting evidence.

    5. Where the location is located by poor quality or ambiguous geographical reference(s) and there is other supporting evidence.

    6. The name is located by a single text containing some errors (but not in relation to this site) giving distance and direction from a more secure site (1-3).

    7. The name is located by multiple texts (or multiple distance/directions in the same text) where there in relation to a more secure site(s), but there are errors or ambiguities, but overwhelming weight of evidence supports the name/location.

    8. The place is located securely from a site of the same rating.

  5. It is likely this name was at this location (60%)

    The evidence linking name to site is of poor quality but taken overall, it is more probable that the name/location was this location/name than anywhere else.

    The test here is whether it is more likely than not to be at this place. (probability at this site > The sum of probabilities at all other sites, known and unknown)

    1. Where there are two sites and this is the more likely

    2. Where there are two names and this one is the more likely

    3. Where there are a very few sites and this one is much more likely

    4. Where there are a very few names and this one is much more likely.

    5. The name is located by a single text (distance) where there is a significant risk the text contains errors or ambiguities relating to distance and direction from a more secure site (4).

    6. The name is located by multiple texts (or multiple directions) in relation to sites of the same or higher ranking, but there are corrected errors or ambiguities in relation to this site. The weight of evidence must support this name/location.

    7. The place is located securely from a site of the same rating.

  6. It is more likely at this name than any other location (or more likely this location had this name than any other name). (25%)

    The evidence linking name to site is of poor quality and it is possible to suggest other sites. However, whilst it cannot be certain which site was which, this name/location can be reasonably argued and was more likely at this location/name than any other.

    The test is whether this is the “best” contender or put formally:

    (probability at this site > next most likely contender)

    1. A site (or name) with some evidence to support it which is the best contender given available evidence.

    2. Poor or ambiguous texts relating this site to a site of the same or ranking (5).

    3. The place is located securely from a site of the same rating.

  7. Not possible to say or very unlikely name/place allocation. (0%)

    At one time it was the practice to guess the site names based on very little evidence. As a result, many ancient places have been inappropriate assigned to sites, which are now commonly given as the name for that site.

    The test here is that there is no reasonable evidence or it may be used where there is strong evidence both for and against the site or evidence of falsification with no contrary evidence.

    1. A site (or name for site) with such poor evidence or choices, that whilst it may be the best contender within those known, it was likely another.

  8. It is likely to be another name/site but through general usage or some other reason, the name has come to be attached to this location. (-50%)

    The test here is that the weight of evidence is against the site or a better contender exists or it is very likely another site exists that is a better contender.

  9. Very likely another site (-75%)

    As above, but the evidence for another site is compelling.

  10. Known to be another site. (-100%)

    This might be used of a film location or modern reconstruction given the same name.

Note the figures in brackets are for internal use. They are a scale from -100 to +100 given as follows. If p1 is probability that name is that location (or location is that name) and p2 is probability of getting name-location right by picking one at random (1% for 100 choices). Then the above is given by

  1. where p1>=p2 (p1-p2)/(1-p2)

  2. where P1 < p2 (p1-p2)/p2

More exact functions might be: log(p1/p2)/log(1/p2) or for small p2 log((p1+p2)/p2)/log(1/p2)

Page Citation: Mike Haseler (2018) "Roman Britain: Place Name Ranking"