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 had a lasting impact on geography due to its astonishingly accurate representation of the world at that time, its detailed geographical features, and its accurate measurements of longitude and latitude. Even today his work is a stunning achievement in cartography.
2. Strabo's Map
Widely used since 20 BCE, Strabo's map was made by Greek philosopher and geographer Strabo, who is mostly known for his encyclopedia “Geographica”. The map was deemed remarkable due to his variety of sources which includes travelers, explorers, merchants, and surprisingly, slavers and slaves. The most amazing thing about the map was its depiction of the northern and southern hemispheres, the Mediterranean sea, the coastlines, and the customs and traditions of different lands.
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. During his time as chief librarian at the great library of Alexandria between 276 – 195 BCE, he wrote a 3 volume work called Geography. He described and mapped the known world and divided the world into five climate zones incorporating information from Alexander the Great and his successors to make the map.
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 and 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 follow 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 but 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. Some other cities shown 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 prepared for Ramesses IV who wanted to mine Bekhen stone in a particular area to build mega statues of himself. In addition to being the oldest topographical map, it is also the earliest known geographical map because it showed the local distribution of different rock types.
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 initially discovered in 1994 but it took researchers 15 years to decipher the meaning of the etched lines. According to the researchers, the lines were a simple map of the cave and the surrounding area.
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 of the 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 that comes 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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