The maps of the world are diagrammatical representations of the world. The history of cartography dates back to the Stone Age, but the history of maps of the world dates back to the 6th century BC. The history of the maps of the world covers the ancient world maps that include the depictions of the world from Classical times to the Age of Discovery, and the development of the modern maps of the world.
Archaeological excavations have revealed that ancient Babylonians and Greeks used the maps of the world as essential tools to help them define, explain and navigate their way through the world. Imago Mundi of 6th century BC Babylonia is believed to the oldest known map of the world. The map reconstructed by Eckhard Unger depicts Babylon on the Euphrates, surrounded by a circular landmass showing Assyria, Armenia and several cities, in turn surrounded by a “bitter river” (Oceanus), with seven islands arranged around it so as to form a seven-pointed star.
The early sources the Hellenic history of the maps of the world lead to Homer, who is sometimes considered as the founding father of Geography. The early Greeks accepted the Homer’s depiction of the earth as circular flat disk surrounded by a constantly moving stream of Ocean. Pythagoras of Samos (560 – 480 BCE) speculated about the notion of a spherical earth with a central fire at its core. However, Anaximander of Miletus (610 BC – 546 BC) is known to have credited the first map of the world; circular in form, depicted the known lands of the world grouped around the Aegean Sea at the center, all surrounded by the ocean. 50 years later, Hecataeus of Miletus (550 – 475 BC) produced the map that he claimed was an improved version of the maps of the world by his illustrious predecessor.
The maps of the world in classical antiquity were drawn by Anaximander of Miletus (610 BC – 546 BC), Hecataeus of Miletus (550 – 475 BC), Herodotus (484-424 BC), Eratosthenes, and Ptolemy (A.D. 90-168). Ptolemy revolutionized the depiction of the spherical earth on the map by using perspective projection. Ptolemy’s eight-book atlas Geographia is a prototype of modern mapping and GIS (Geography Information System).
Later scholars used Ptolemy’s methods along with the travel knowledge and information of explorers and merchants to draw the later and more realistic maps of the world. Many Muslim cartographers made efforts to draw the maps of the world, but Abu Abdullah Ibn Idrisi (Arab Cartographer) is the first known Muslim Cartographer in the history of the maps of the world. Abu Abdullah Ibn Idrisi wrote his medieval atlas, “Geography”, or “The Recreation for Him Who Wishes to Travel Through the Countries” in 1154, with the funding of Roger II of Sicily (1097-1154).
Mappa Mundi or Medieval European maps of the world were on the lines of earlier Babylonian World Map. These maps of the world were circular or symmetrical cosmological diagrams representing the earth’s single land mass as disk-shaped and surrounded by ocean. The Greenwich prime meridian becoming the international standard reference for cartographers in 1884 scripted the new chapter in the history of the maps of the world. There were lots of to improvements in printing and photography that helped making the production of the maps of the world cheaper, easier, and abundant during 1900s. The uses of computers technology in map-making since the mid-1900’s has helped producing fine quality maps of the world.