African map project – al Idrisi and Ptolemy’s maps

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A map showing south as up, and Arabia as the center: African map project

African map project: Al-Idrisi’s map of the world (1100s AD)

Check out this copy of al-Idrisi’s map of the world, created in the 1100s AD. Can you find the Black Sea? The Caspian Sea? The Mediterranean Sea? Where is China on this map? Where is Spain?

A copy of Ptolemy's map of the world

A copy of Ptolemy’s map of the world

How is al-Idrisi’s map different from Ptolemy’s map of the world? Does al-Idrisi know more or less about Africa than Ptolemy did? Why did al-Idrisi choose to center his map on the Arabian Peninsula? How is this map different from a modern map? Why do you think this might be?

Put away all these pictures, and try to draw your own map of the world, using only what you already know about the shape of the continents. Where will you center your map? Which direction will be up? How good is your map compared to these early maps?

More African Science

More Islamic Science

Bibliography and further reading:


African Mathematics
Egyptian Science
Ancient Africa home

By |2018-04-21T11:56:45+00:00October 3rd, 2017|Africa, Science|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. African map project – al Idrisi and Ptolemy’s maps. Study Guides, October 3, 2017. Web. December 13, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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