Maps and Mapmaking

The first known map is a small clay tablet portraying an estate, was made late in the 3rd millennium BC. by the Sumerian. About the 14th century BC, Egyptians made maps showing boundaries of property for use in taxation.

The earliest important phase in the development of cartography can be traced to the ancient Greeks, who in turn are believed to have borrowed from the earlier cultures of the Middle East.

As early as the 8th century BC. the Greeks had already established a reputation as accomplished sailor and colonizers. By the early 6th century BC. Greece had become the leading center of geographical knowledge. The first book on geography, describing a circular, flat Earth surrounded by ocean waters, appeared at the end of the 6th century BC. In the 3rd century BC. the famous scholar and mathematician Eratosthenes of Cyrene calculated the Earth’s circumference with remarkable accuracy. He and his contemporary Hipparchus laid the foundations for scientific cartography, developing a system of Latitude and Longitude.

Much of what is known about ancient Greek cartography comes from the writings of Strabo and Ptolemy. The latter’s Geographia included map projections and coordinates for places in the known world. The Romans, inheritaors of the Greek knowledge of geography, surveyed their empire.

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