Humans have been making maps for thousands of years, and the history of maps can be traced back to ancient cave paintings, etchings on tusks and stone, etc. Here is a list of the oldest maps in the world. You may be surprised at the materials and locations we've uncovered!
1. Ptolemy’s Geography
Composed in the second century AD, Ptolemy's Geography is the earliest known scientific map of the world and is considered one of the most significant maps in history. Ptolemy's map left a lasting imprint on the field of geography thanks to its remarkably accurate depiction of the contemporary world, its intricate portrayal of geographical characteristics, and its precise measurements of longitude and latitude.Even today, his work is a stunning achievement in cartography.
2. Strabo's Map
Since 20 BCE, Strabo's map was widely used by Greek philosopher and geographer Strabo, who is mostly known for his encyclopedia “Geographica”. The map garnered attention for its diverse range of inputs, encompassing accounts from travelers, explorers, merchants, and, unexpectedly, both slavers and enslaved people. What made the map particularly noteworthy was its depiction of the northern and southern hemispheres, the Mediterranean Sea, the coastlines, and different regions' cultural customs and traditions.
3. The Eratosthenes Map
The Eratosthenes map was made by the father of geography, Eratosthenes, who was credited with inventing the discipline and its terminology. While serving as the head librarian at the renowned Library of Alexandria from 276 to 195 BCE, he authored a three-volume publication titled “Geography.” He intricately depicted and charted the familiar globe within this work, segmenting it into five climatic regions. His maps were enriched by insights drawn from Alexander the Great and his subsequent leaders.
4. The Hecataeus Map
Hecataeus of Miletus was the first known Greek historian and geographer. Inspired by Anaximander's work, Hecataeus mapped the known world. They wrote a book called the “Periodos Ges” or “Journey Around the Earth”, where he described the known geography of Europe, Asia, and Africa at that time. In addition to the detailed lands, he also included information about the people and places a person would encounter if they followed the map.
5. Anaximander's Map
Anaximander's Map was made between 610- 546 BCE by the great pre-Socratic philosopher Anaximander, and it was known as the First World Map. Unlike other maps, which featured towns, villages, and other geological features, Anaximander chose to show all inhabited lands known to the Greeks. In that way, his map was the first known world map. Unfortunately, no copy of the map exists today. However, there are still records that describe in detail what the map depicted, including Europe, Asia, Libya, the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, the Nile, Lake Maeotis, and Phasis (Now called Rioni).
6. The Babylonian Map of the World (Imago Mundi)
The Babylonian map of the world is considered the oldest world map in existence, as the map depicted all of the known world at that time. The map is circular and features two outer defined circles. The center of the map shows the Euphrates River flowing from north to south, and the city of Babylon is shown along the river. Other cities on the map include Uratu, Susa, Assyria, and Habban.
7. Turin Papyrus Map
Created in 1160 BCE by the Egyptian scribe, Amennakhte, the Turin Papyrus map is widely considered the oldest existing topographical map from the ancient world. The map was created at the request of Ramesses IV, who sought to extract Bekhen stone from a specific region to construct colossal statues in his likeness. This map is the most ancient topographic and geographical representation, depicting the regional distribution of various rock varieties.
8. Abauntz Rock Map
Created in 14,000 BCE, the map was engraved into a hand-sized rock found in the Abauntz cave in the Navarre region of Spain and is believed to be the oldest map in Western Europe. The rock was discovered in 1994, yet it took scientists 15 years to unravel the significance of the engraved markings. According to the researchers, the markings constituted a basic representation of the cave and its environs.
9. Lascaux Cave Star Map
The pre-historic paintings found in Lascaux's cave were some of the most beautiful and well-known pieces of art left by our ancestors. There are thousands of figures of animals, humans, and abstract signs in the paintings, and many interpretations of what the paintings represent have been presented over the years. One of the theories presented was that some unknown figures in the paintings are pre-historic star maps. According to some of the researchers, the tiny dots in the paintings, known as the Shaft of the Dead Man, corresponds with constellations such as Taurus, the Pleiades, and the Summer Triangle.
10. Mammoth Tusk map
The mammoth tusk map from the village of Pavlov in the Czech Republic is believed to be the oldest map in the world, dating from 25,000 BCE. While archaeologists aren't completely sure, the markings on the tusk may have depicted the landscape of Pavlov at that time. The map depicted hills, rivers, and paths which were represented by curved markings and double circles. Currently, the map rests at the Archaeological Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.
Well, there you have it; the 10 oldest maps in the world. What do you think? Are we missing any famous old maps you've learned about or had a chance to see? Let us know in the comments!
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