History of Maps


Old maps can tell us a great deal about where people
traveled in ancient times. Men have made and used maps ever
since people first moved about the earth exploring other
territories, trading, or conquering other peoples. By
comparing old maps, we can learn the extent of knowledge
that various peoples had of the world throughout the ages. 

The oldest known map was made about 2300 B.C. It is a small
clay tablet from Babylonia that probably shows a man's
estate in a mountain-lined valley. The Egyptians made maps
as early as 1300 B.C. One of the few remaining ancient
Egyptian maps shows the route from the Nile Valley to the
gold mines of Nab, part of ancient Ethiopia. 

The Greeks made maps of the inhabited world in the early
300's B.C. They became one of the first peoples to realize
that the earth is round. They designed the first projection
and developed a longitude and latitude system. No ancient
Greek maps exist today. The Romans used maps for taxing
land and to assist in military campaigns. They were
excellent surveyors and their maps have been preserved. 

The most famous ancient maps were made by Claudius Ptolemy,
a scholar who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, around A.D. 150.
A map of the world as known at that time, and 26 regipnal
maps of Europe, Africa, and Asia formed part of his
eight-book, Geographia.
The portolano, or sailor's char, came into common use
during the 1300's and 1400's in Europe. It was developed as
an aid to navigation along the coasts of the Mediterranean
Sea. Maps of this type were drawn on sheepskin. They showed
the outline of coasts and harbors, and located shipping

These systematic calculations for the mapping and shaping
of the earth were halted from becoming common knowledge by
the Churches of various religions. An example of this can
be found in the book of Ezekiel
"Thus saith the Lord God; This is Jerusalem: I have set it
in the midst of the nations and countries that are round
about her." (Ezekiel 5:5)
This verse states that the city of Jerusalem should be in
the center of all maps created. This eliminated the need
for any latitude or longitude. Before hand, there had been
more than six hundred maps created, not one having this
holy city as the center. There was nothing new about
putting "the most sacred place at the center" says
Boorstin. The Hindus placed Mount Meru, a mythological
70,000 foot high mountain at the center of their map. In
the Muslim faith, the Ka'bah in Mecca was the highest point
on earth and the polestar showed the city of Mecca to be
opposite the center of the sky. As one can clearly see,
many maps, had different centers. Each map had a different
center, each based on a different religion.
Many years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the Greeks
theorized that the earth was a globe. But after that, there
was a period in history called "The Great Interruption."
This period was categorized by a complete silence where
people in general, forgot about the issue of whether the
earth was flat or whether it was a globe. Another reason
that brought the theories of a globular world to rest was
because the priests told the general public that the earth
was flat. Priests such as St. Augustine and others invented
the Antipode theory, which stated that a world shaped like
a globe is impossible because objects would be hanging
downwards and growing backwards. Once again, religion
played a major part in this argument that would rage on for
many years to come.
To conclude, much like the theories of the priests in the
first 400 years after the birth of Jesus Christ, who said
that Jerusalem was the center of a flat earth, one might be
able to relate this period in time to a much more recent
and modern one. Prior to the French Revolution in 1789,
France was ruled by an absolute divine right monarchy. The
institution that had the most power at the time was the
Catholic Church. No one in France would ever dare question
the word of the Church. Everything the Church said had to
be true and that was that. This is further reinforced by
the church's persecution of Copernicus who later again
theorized that the earth was not the center of the solar


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