Old maps

Maps from the Age of Discovery

According to Bad Archaeologists, there is a series of early modern maps showing continents (usually Antarctica) that their makers ought not to have known about if conventional histories of European exploration are correct. Apparently, these map makers inherited ancient maps from a lost global seafaring civilisation, or maybe they were from cartographically obsessed extraterrestrials, or maybe they date from before the Pleistocene Ice Age, or maybe the earth’s crust slipped out of place, or maybe…

Antique maps

Bad Archaeologists are almost as enthusiastic about old maps as they are about biblical and pseudepigraphic texts. They often write about them as if they are mysteries of unknown age, produced by obscure collectors of arcane and ancient wisdom and ignored by modern scholars. Nothing could be further from the truth. We can examine the histories of three of the most frequently cited to see just how wide of the mark Bad Archaeological speculations about them are.

4 Replies to “Old maps”

  1. I think you are trying too hard to debunk the myriad of speculative claims without providing and alternative explanation for how these maps functioned. From the 13th century through the 18th century, first Mediterranean maps and later world maps functioned, in part, in a hypothesis/ hypothesis testing fashion. A cartographer would draw and publish a map. Others would explore a region of that map and “correct” it, that is add their observations. Or, take their knowledge, which the original cartographer did not have, and add to the map. All of these maps are to a degree compellations, as Piri admits in his map. All of them contained a great deal of speculation based on incomplete, misinterpreted, and just bad information or in some cases wishful thinking (Swift Geographers on Afric downs …. etc). It is only from our perspective, looking back with our more complete geographic knowledge that these early maps seem to posses amazing insight, which we project on to them. In this context it might be useful to admit that from the mid 16th century onward as the Piri, Finaeus ,and Buache maps reflect, there is the feeling that there is something in the extreme southern latitudes, but no one knows exactly what it is.

    1. Yes, you’re exactly right. That’s in part what I try to say about Philippe Buache: he was the foremost theoretical geographer of his day, who sought to explain the observations made during the 1737 voyage to the Southern Ocean in terms of the processes he knew. We can see with hindsight that he was correct to hypothesise a large Antarctic continent, but wrong to give it a central ice-free sea.

  2. Hi im from Portugal and in relation to maps and discoveries of countries we have rich history in those areas.I dont know what kind of maps you’re talking, or if you dispose them because people that understand zero of history generaly atributes it to extra terrestrial origns, or some silly explanation. This map was made in 1490s and piri reis, an Otaman Commander, used several maps to map his own map. The strange thing on is map e the description, of lands never found, or depicted in any maps, and withh a precision incredible, so incredible that you pick maps of today and compare with that and you ll see shores almost copy. The strangest in that map e showing greenland as 3 distint islands, which recently was proven rigth. Even more strange it show antartida not cover with ice, but completly ice free, and with palm trees and exotic animals. In which map did he saw that? Because i dont know of any portuguese map as ccomplete as piri reis (which was based on some of portuguese maps and more.)

    1. Iceland has not been discovered to be three islands – if it has, someone is keeping it remarkably quiet as it has not been reported anywhere. Small islands have been found of the coast, that were connected to the main bulk with ice, reported in 2007 in NY times for example (is that recently?). Can I paste links in comments? I can try: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/16/science/earth/16gree.html?em&ex=1169182800&en=80fa9bf627117422&ei=5087&_r=0 Only thing I could find that does not refer to just some speculation from the 1950’s. Search engines, marvellous things.

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