Geography 222 The Power of Maps and GIS Geog 222 Main Page and Course Description Geog 222 Syllabus Geog 222 Course Schedule and Lecture Outlines Geog 222 Exercises

Geog 222 Lecture Outline: A Cultural History of Maps
Update: 10/6/17

Maps reflect cultural & social factors:

Maps reflect personal experiences, interests, and knowledge:

The "histories" of cartography: many different "episodes"

Usual story: progression from less accurate/less knowledge of world to more accurate/more knowledge of the world

We can also approach to the history of cartography with a perspective that looks at maps as reflections of different conceptualizations of the world from different cultures and times.

Mapping reflects what is culturally important at particular times and in particular places: avoid judging all maps by geographical accuracy alone

1. Prehistoric Maps

Four general kinds of maps from prehistoric cultures

1a. Pictographs: map-like pictures: how does the idea of a view from above start?

1b. Plan or Topographic maps: the view of the landscape from above: foundation of what most people think of when they think of maps

1c. Star maps: representing the heavens

1d. Cosmological maps: representing the world of belief : symbolic maps of a culture's beliefs about the world

Differing cultural reasons for mapping; understanding the world

2. Ancient Middle East

Cosmological maps: all over the world

Foundations of modern concern with geographical accuracy: why?

...sort of equivalent in importance to...

Maps revealing a speculative scientific interest in the world: the Greeks

...this cultural episode

3. Cartography in the 1st half of the Millennium: 400AD to 1450

This era: geographically accurate maps in many places around the world

Ptolemy (Greek, 100AD): work serves as basis of modern cartography (Dorling p. 11)

Islamic Cartography

Move back to Europe around the same time - early in the 1st Millennium

Survey of English manuscript maps for the period 1150-1500, and on European printed regional maps for the period 1500-1600 (by Catherine Delano-Smith, for Volume 3 of The History of Cartography Project):

Four types of medieval maps: tripartite, zonal, quadripartite

Late in this episode: emergence of exploration, trade, empire building in Europe

Yet again... for the most part, mapping is widespread, diverse, and rare

4. The Age of Discovery: Renaissance European Maps: 1450 AD onward...

Now mapping is widespread, somewhat less diverse, and not at all rare

Shifts in European culture correspond to shifts in European mapping

1490-1510: extensive growth in knowledge of the world

As the Europeans spread throughout the world: the Age of Discovery was also an age of Encounter

5. Indigenous Cultures and Mapping

Terrestrial Mapping Tradition: mapping geographic phenomena

Europeans borrowed much geographic knowledge from Natives, and incorporated this knowledge on European maps

Transculturation: both Europeans and Natives changed each other; exchanged mapping techniques, data, and geographic knowledge; across ('trans') culture exchange of knowledge.

...other interesting Indigenous mapping traditions...

Beaver Indian (Canada): "Oh yes, Indians made maps. You would not take any notice of them. You might say such maps are crazy. But maybe the Indians would say that is what your maps are: the same thing. Different maps from different people - different ways." (from Brody, Maps and Dreams)

Cosmological Tradition: symbolic mapping of cosmologies and space

The maps represent, in a orderly manner, a culture's cosmology, but they are also models for living: a "moral cartography," and a means of conducting one's life: native people, then, "lived their maps." (Nabokov, p. 255).

The terrestrial and cosmological traditions were often not distinct:

Phenomena we think of as real and distinct from the heavens and religious belief may not be so distinct:

Confusing 'star map': does not match stars in the sky: inaccurate?

6. Nineteenth and Twentieth Century

Origins of "thematic" cartography: maps of empirically measured physical and social phenomena

19th century: mapping of political, economic, social, and resource data; This kind of data didn't exist before.

Development of capitalism, interest in social issues, resources, interest in visualizing empirical data >> again a cultural link to maps


One consequence for mapping: Propaganda Maps

But more importantly: Concern with the world and its relations: the birth of 'globalism.'

Maps tangled up in different interests: reflect particular episodes in time, culture

...a Cultural History of Cartography

One facet: development of geographical accuracy

Linked to cultural characteristics which lead to exploration, trade, colonization; scientific interest and economic factors

Another facet: Maps as reflections of culture rather than only geographical locations

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