One of the most interesting fields of study of all times is cartography. And it seems like during the history, many people were drawn to discovering and analyzing our world. One of the oldest routes documented is a 9 feet wall painting discovered back in 1963 in a ton plan. It reveals a thorough mapping of buildings and a volcano in Anatolia. And besides this amazing masterpiece dating back to 6100 BC, there are plenty of other cartographic wonders one needs to know about.
What is Ancient Cartography?
Did you know that the Greeks were the first to analyze their surroundings and paint up a guiding map? Well, many Greek personalities, such as Ptolemy, Herodotus, or Eratosthenes, influenced the western earth sciences and had a significant contribution to geography and cartography. And Anaximander was the first one to draw a map of the world at that time. Moreover, the Greeks were the ones who firstly debated about the shape of the Earth, along with how vast its territories are.
How the Roman Empire contributed to the History of Cartography
Of course, even though the Greeks were the firsts to take a glimpse of the world, the Romans didn’t step back either. The Roman Empire used cartography so that they improved their military and administrative needs. As such, we can still see today’s well-preserved Roman maps that offer an accurate depiction of key areas of the empire, along with key points they aimed to conquer.
And what the Romans and Greeks started, was continued in the Middle Ages by Muslim scholars. Throughout history, Muslim travelers are known for their insights they documented about the Earth. Also, they followed Ptolemy’s philosophy and methods so that they establish the circumference of Earth.
One of the most important documents in the history of cartography is Mappa Mundi. Designed back in the 1300s, it considered to be one of the largest medieval maps still in existence. Besides, it offers accurate depictions of the world at the said time, with Jerusalem positioned in the center of the map. The idea behind this cartographic wonder is that Jerusalem is the heart of the world, while the remaining states spread out around it, similar to a garden of Eden.
We can see that it wasn’t until the early 1500s that scientists explored the possibility to make a round earth look right on a flat surface. Indeed, there a lot of issues to tackle, but this put the basis of the map of the world we know today. The Mercator projection from the 1500s is one of the best tools for sea navigation. This depiction of the world was used up until the 19th century, with slight variations and modifications depending on the state using it.
Yet in the 19th century, due to the transportation innovations occurring, more maps appeared, these were meant to offer valuable insight on what cartographers of that time understood about the world. Of course, plenty of those weren’t useful for navigation, but they had as their primary purpose in presenting the world as a whole.