Maps are an ancient necessity for any expanding kingdom or empire. Anytime your lands get bigger than you can see from even a high vantage point the idea of maps becomes more appealing.
A king should know where his lands lie just like you should know when you’re gambling in an online casino South Africa vs an online casino Australia.
It’s not just kings who need to know the way around their lands. Maps most likely becoming more commonplace as soon as trade farther than just the nearest farm to the nearest town became a thing.
As soon as you need to cross the countryside on more complicated trade routes being able to find the next town to sell or buy your wares becomes an important issue.
For a while, you can imagine that the only real maps existed in people’s heads. You pay a farmer to give you directions to the nearest town and then you head on your way. The roads probably only went there anyway.
But giving directions is hard when you don’t even have stuff like a compass yet.
The First Maps
The first map was not at all like what we have today. The oldest map for navigating we have is not even of anything on planet Earth.
The oldest known map that was found carved into a cave wall in a remote place in France is not of a location, a town, or navigation through the countryside.
It’s a map of the stars. It’s a map showing the night sky, pointing out the bright stars and where you’ll go by following them.
It’s a reminder that ancient people navigated by the stars long before they had compasses, GPS, or roads to guide them. The stars are a constant in the sky that is extremely useful for navigating at night, like how the sun is extremely useful for navigating during the day.
Although dated a little further along in history than the star maps on cave walls, crude maps drawn on cave walls or carved into rocks showing specific landmarks or rivers near them and presumably directions from there have been found.
What the exact purpose of these is really kind of unknown. Where they a way stop for weary travelers with directions to more civilization? We can’t really know.
In the area now known as the Czech Republic, there was a carved mammoth tusk that showed a mountain, valleys, a stream, and a path leading around all of them. Was it just art or a map to another location or of the surrounding area? Once again we can’t be sure.
What’s interesting in a completely different way than the previously mentioned maps is a different type of map from ancient Babylon.
They were a city mapped, drawn down to streets and buildings!
The map is incomplete, as it was part of a stone tablet that’s now broken or eroded away. But it shows a very interesting fact, this map was most likely used for city planning. Making it likely that even ancient civilizations had city planning.
This makes sense when you think about it, but it was just a thought I never thought about before. Of course, ancient civilizations wouldn’t have been able to build such cities and towns without a little bit of planning.
But I’ve always fallen into the trap of thinking of older civilizations as somehow dumber than us, not just technologically less advanced.
It’s a bad habit that I feel a lot of people fall into. Hopefully, the more people and I learn about ancient civilizations and the practically amazing feats they were able to accomplish with such primitive technology the less of a thing it becomes.
Did you know that those ancient marble statues you see in loads of museums and galleries were once painted? It’s crazy to think about.
For obvious reason mapping, the world was first attempted a very long time ago. They weren’t very good though.
A lot of that had to do with them not having seen the entire world yet. Also, the fact they didn’t have many very good ways of measuring distance, so the size of things on maps was mostly guessed.
It took the invention of devices such as the sextant and quadrant to really improve the maps of the time. These devices allowed for the measurement of longitude and latitude by sailors at sea.
This made it so a ship sailing along a shoreline could very easily make a very accurate map of said shoreline given enough time and motivation. This drastically improved the maps, at least for the general shape of continents and things that were surrounded by water.
It took until Christopher Columbus and the explorers after him to actually get a map of the world though, since he discovered (or at least rediscovered for the Europeans of the time) the continents of North and South America.
After this, it was mostly just a job of finding and getting to new shorelines to map than it was of any technological or economical reason not to map.
With the invention of such things as space travel and satellites getting very accurate maps of the entire world is almost laughably easy.
Even with things just like airplanes and helicopters making maps of things was very easy. With very popular programs like Google Earth or Google Maps, almost everybody carries around a map of the planet Earth in their pocket.
If you want to know the quickest way to get from your current location and to the exact other side of the planet you can find out in less than a minute. And then you can actually travel that distance in only a day or two.
It’s truly amazing what we humans have been able to achieve. The twenty-first century is really something amazing.