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How Did Cartographers Create World Maps before Airplanes and Satellites? An Introduction

“Regular readers of Open Culture know a thing or two about maps if they’ve paid attention to our posts on the history of cartography, the evolution of world maps (and why they are all wrong), and the many digital collections of historical maps from all over the world. What does the seven and a half-minute video above bring to this compendium of online cartographic knowledge? very quick survey of world map history, for one thing, with stops at many of the major historical intersections from Greek antiquity to the creation of the Catalan Atlas, an astonishing mapmaking achievement from 1375. The upshot is an answer to the very reasonable question, “how were (sometimes) accurate world maps created before air travel or satellites?” The explanation? A lot of history — meaning, a lot of time. Unlike innovations today, which we expect to solve problems near-immediately, the innovations in mapping technology took many centuries and required the work of thousands of travelers, geographers, cartographers, mathematicians, historians, and other scholars who built upon the work that came before. It started with speculation, myth, and pure fantasy, which is what we find in most geographies of the ancient world…”

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