Historical Cartography

Historical Cartography refers to the study and practice of map-making in periods before the modern era, focusing on understanding how past cultures visualized, organized, and communicated their geographic knowledge through maps.

In Depth Explanation of Historical Cartography

Historical Cartography is a term that encompasses the creation and analysis of maps from ancient times up to the 19th century. The etymology of the term can be traced back to the Greek words 'history,' meaning 'inquiry' or 'knowledge acquired by investigation,' and 'kartographia,' which combines 'kartes' (map) and 'graphia' (writing). Historical cartography sheds light on how different civilizations, from the Babylonians and Greeks to the Chinese and medieval Europeans, conceptualized their world. These maps were often not just practical tools for navigation but also objects of art, political propaganda, and repositories of cultural and theological knowledge.

The practice of historical cartography was revolutionized by figures like Claudius Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD, whose work 'Geographia' aimed to create a comprehensive world map based on a grid system of latitude and longitude. This early scientific approach significantly influenced the cartographic practices in the Renaissance period. While these historical maps were eventually surpassed in accuracy and detail by modern cartographic methods and technologies, they remain invaluable for understanding the historical context, societal values, and technological capabilities of their times.

A Practical Example of Historical Cartography

An excellent example of historical cartography is the 'Mappa Mundi' housed in Hereford Cathedral in England. Created around 1300, this medieval map provides a visual representation of the known world at that time, blending geographic locations with biblical events, historical occurrences, and mythological elements. The map is circular and oriented with East at the top, Jerusalem at its center, which reflects the medieval worldview and the significance of religious and cultural interpretation in map-making. The 'Mappa Mundi' is not just a geographic tool; it is a profound illustration of the medieval mind.

Related glossary terms:

Reviews for The Unique Maps Co.