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History of cartography

The “Psalter” world map, so named because it was found in a psalter (book containing psalms), was drawn in England in around...Read More >>The “Psalter” world map, so named because it was found in a psalter (book containing psalms), was drawn in England in around 1260. Jerusalem is at the centre of the map, which is orientated with east (the believed location of the Garden of Eden) at its top—where Christ is depicted. The map’s geographical depiction of Europe, western Asia and northern Africa is very rough, but it also includes details from Bible stories and history. The Mediterranean Sea is the green T-shaped area running across the centre and to the bottom of the map, with Europe to its left, Africa to its right, and Asia above. The British Isles are at the bottom left. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden are near the top, with Noah’s ark close by, below left.The story of maps starts at least 8000 years ago, when some people first started to draw plans of their town, region, world—or the heavens. At first, they worked from memory or entirely from their imagination. As societies became more ordered and complex, people saw the need for accurate maps. They began to survey the land, taking accurate measurements and plotting features. As explorers reached foreign lands, map-makers (also called cartographers) started to cover larger and larger regions in their maps. Inventions such as the compass, astrolabe and theodolite began to turn cartography into a combination of science, design and technology. 


The earliest maps

Reproduction of the Çatal Höyük plan, dating from around 6200 BC. Many experts consider the wall painting to be a map rather than...Read More >>Reproduction of the Çatal Höyük plan, dating from around 6200 BC. Many experts consider the wall painting to be a map rather than a picture, because it shows a correct relationship between the Hasan Dag volcano and the ancient town. The town is drawn as a plan (as if from directly overhead, as in modern maps), while the volcano is drawn in profile (as if from ground level). Modern maps also often show certain features in profile, such as the symbols for castles or windmills. The very earliest maps were probably not meant to help with navigation: they may have had ritual or religious uses. One of the earliest maps ever found is a wall painting in the ancient city of Çatal Höyük, Turkey, dating from around 6200 BC. The map features a rough plan of the town, drawn from the map-maker’s imagination. Behind the town is an eruption of the twin-coned volcano Hasan Dag, which is visible from Çatal Höyük.

The world’s oldest maps are possibly petroglyphs (carvings on rocks), such as one dating back to around 10,000 BC in Idaho, USA. Some experts think the carvings show the course of the Snake River with a series of symbols.

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