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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)

What’s new about al Idrisi’s map?

Check out this copy of al-Idrisi’s map of the world, created in the 1100s AD.

Who was al-Idrisi?
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Can you find the Black Sea? The Caspian Sea? The Mediterranean Sea? Where is China on this map? Where is Spain?

Compare al-Idrisi’s map with older maps

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 from a thousand years earlier? 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?

The Arabian Peninsula
Who was Ptolemy?

Draw your own map of the world

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?

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Bibliography and further reading:


African Mathematics
Egyptian Science
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