Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The 13th Century Ebstorf Map

Now this is something that is downright fascinating.

It's a map of the world, but from the Middle Ages, which is interesting because it showed the structure of the world as medieval people saw it.

A few things to notice:

  • Jerusalem is at the center of the world
  • The earth is divided into three parts, just like the Classical Greek view
  • Africa is circular. Come to think of it, nothing about Africa is even close to right: from magical animals like the manticores and mirmicaleons (what the hell is that?) to Meroe, the land of midgets that ride crocodiles. Don't forget the dog-headed men, the people with four feet, and cave-dwelling giants. I guess it goes to show that wildly making shit up about Africa was a time-honored tradition centuries before the days of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
  • The Garden of the Hesperides is in Africa, marked by a winged serpent guardian
  • The location of the Garden of Eden is marked, watered by 11 rivers
  • Up around the Caucasus, you can see the homeland of the terrible cannibal giants Gog and Magog
  • If you look in Northern Asia, you can see where the mapmakers wrote in the homeland of the Amazon Women
  • Colchis, the city on the Black Sea that was the legendary home of the Quest for the Golden Fleece, is clearly marked
  • In Israel, you can see the Tower of Babel and Mt. Ararat, where Noah's ark landed
  • Mostly the map of Europe is right, but it's fascinating to see things like ant-dogs on the map, to say nothing of the total absence of anything like Switzerland.

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