The world’s oldest maps
Man has been carving symbols into stones and on cave walls for thousands of years so it was only a matter of time before navigational inscriptions would emerge to help guide our hunting and foraging patterns.
From cave drawings and Babylonian clay tablets to stone carvings and papyrus text, here are some of the world’s oldest maps (in no particular order).
1418 Ming Dynasty map
The map pictured above is said to be a copy of an original 1418 Ming Dynasty map, which potentially proves that in the 15th century, the Chinese were already exploring the shores of modern-day North America. This version was copied in 1763 by artist Mo Yi-tong and was sold for $500.
Read A Review of the Historical Importance of Oldest World Map by Gunnar Thompson, PhD for more information.
Çatalhöyük – 6200 B.C. Babylonian clay map
During a 1963 excavation in Ankara, Turkey, British archeologist James Mellaart unearthed what is said to be one of the earliest known maps. The map, in the form of a wall painting, was radiocarbon-dated back to 6,200 +/- 97 B.C., and the archeologist believed it was a map of one of the earliest known cities – Çatalhöyük.
1883 reconstruction of Eratosthenes' 276-194 B.C. map
North African philosopher Eratosthenes from Cyrene (now modern day Libya) was credited as being the first cartographer to depict parallels and meridians in his map, which was based on Alexander the Great's campaigns across Asia. The map shown above is a 1883 reconstruction of Eratosthenes' original version.
1898 reconstruction of Pomponius Melas' world map
Ancient Roman cartographer Pomponius was the first to divide the earth into five zones...of which only two were able to support life, according to him.
4th century Tabula Peutingeriana (small section shown)
The Tabula Peutingeriana, known also as the Peutinger Map, depicts the road network of the Roman Empire. Named after a 15th-16th century humanist called Konrad Peutinger, the map spans Europe, India, and North Africa. It currently resides at the National Library in Vienna, Austria.
1824 A.D. Turin Papyrus Map
Drawn around 1160 B.C. by the well-known scribe Amennakhte on papyrus and discovered in Thebes, Egypt, the Turin Papyrus Map is said to be the oldest surviving topographical map. It was brought to Europe by Napolean's consul to Egypt, Bernadino Drovetti, and now sits in the Turin Museum in Italy.
Read Turin Papyrus Map from Ancient Egypt by James A. Harrell, PhD for more.
14,000-yea- old Spanish stone tablet
In 2009, archaeologists in Spain discovered what they're billing the earliest map known to man at 14,000 years old. Found in a cave in the Navarra region of Spain, the engravings on the stone depict a landscape of mountains, rivers, and "areas of good foraging and hunting."