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Babylonian "Map Of The World" - The Earliest Extant Map

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Bianca
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« on: July 10, 2009, 07:11:09 pm »











                                             The Babylonian "map of the world."




 

(1) The Babylonian "map of the world"

BM 92687. Babylonian "map of the world" in the British Museum, London. It is the earliest extant map. The clay tablet is 12.2 cms tall. The map was composed in Babylonia and is the only Babylonian map drawn on an international scale. It is a Neo-Babylonian (Persian Period, circa 500 BCE) copy of an original dating to the Sargonid Period, circa late eighth or seventh century BCE. The clay tablet is a drawing and textual description of the Babylonian cosmos. It is oriented to the north-west. (It is uncertain whether the accompanying cuneiform text was composed together with the map.) It is the only known map of the world dating from the Neo-Babylonian Period. All other maps have a purely local focus.

It depicts a "bird's-eye" view of the world and shows a flat, round world with the city of Babylon in the centre. (Circa 500 BCE Babylon was still a flourishing city and regarded as the centre (i.e., the "hub") of the world. In the third millennium BCE Nippur was considered to be the city at the centre of the world.) It is likely that the Sumerians made the city of Nippur the centre of the universe (a Sumerian Rome) from about 2300 BCE (just prior to the Ur III Period). Political supremacy was regarded as conditional on the possession of Nippur. With the rise to political supremacy of the Babylonian kings, from the early 2nd-millennium onwards, it was possible for Babylon to claim the central position and replace Nippur as the centre of the universe.

The map depicts the world as two concentric circles, with triangular areas radiating from the outer circle. The area within the inner circle represents the central continent where Babylon and Assyria are located. The area between the two circles is the earthly (cosmic?) ocean. The area beyond the outer circle consists of the triangular areas, which are the uncharted regions. The continent on the map contains various geometric shapes representing places and topographic features. The place names include the countries of Assyria (indicated north-east of Babylon), Urartu (Armenia) (indicated north of Assyria), the land of Habban (South Yemen) (indicated south-west of Babylon) and the city of Babylon. The topographic features include a mountain, a swamp, and a channel. (The mountains are located at the top, in the north.) Babylon is represented by a large rectangle encompassing almost half the width of the central continent. Assyria is represented as a small oval. (Various nameless places are also indicated by ovals.) The Euphrates River, which originates in the mountains at the top of the map, runs through Babylon and flows into the marshes at the bottom of the map. The continent is surrounded by the circle of salty ocean. The map schematically portrays the entire kingdom of Babylonia. The text contains the names of countries and cities but, on the reverse side, the text is largely concerned with a description of the seven unnamed outer regions ("islands") which are depicted in the form of equal triangles rising beyond the encircling earthly (cosmic?) ocean.

The text (on both sides of the tablet) shows that the map attempts to depict the entire world. The emphasis on distant places in the text accompanying the map indicates that the likely purpose of the map was to locate and describe distant regions. The text of the reverse of the tablet describe the "seven islands" in detail. (From the paucity of the information given it is evident that the Babylonians knew little about these "islands." Mostly, the description given is mostly about their various degrees of brightness.) From the text on the reverse of the tablet, and the inscriptions on the map itself, it can be determined that the first "island" lay in the south-east. the second "island" lay in the south-west, and so on, so that the sequence of the "islands" is somewhat analogous with the hands of a modern clock. The descriptions of the first and second outer regions are not preserved.

Other textual sources describe he earthly ocean as being enclosed by a double range of mountains, those to the east and those to the west (the "sunrise" and "sunset" range, respectively.

The map has a definite orientation - it is inclined. The orientation is such that that the northwest is at the top. Thus the Babylonian system of orientation did not follow the perpendicular plane - north, west, south, and east - of our Western cardinal points. The Babylonian system of orientation was based upon the prevalent winds. The northwest wind was sent from the goddess Ishtar and was a favourable wind. 




For a detailed early discussion of the Babylonian world map see

"From Cosmos Picture to the World Map."

by Eckhard Unger
(Imago Mundi,
Volume 2,
1937,
Pages 1-7).
« Last Edit: July 10, 2009, 07:18:54 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2009, 07:17:34 pm »








(2) The levels of the Babylonian universe



The vertical levels of the (generalised) Mesopotamian universe are indicated as:

Region Above the Heaven of Anu (See: The Etana Epic, Section B 30-43) (Open space implied by The Etana Epic)

Upper Heaven (High Heaven) of Anu (Highest Region of the Universe)

Middle Heaven (Intermediate High Heaven) of Igigi

Lower Heaven of the (Visible) Sky (Stars, Planets, Sun, and Moon)

The "Atmosphere" (Either not specifically listed (not considered a separate level of the universe) or identified as Part of Visible Sky (Lower Heaven); or Separate Geographical Level) 

Upper Earth (Humankind, The Level of the Earth's Surface (Dry Land and Sea))

Middle Earth, Apsu of Ea (Enki/Ea) (Cosmic Subterranean Water)

Lower Earth, Underworld of Nergal (King) and Ereškigal (Queen) (Realm of the Dead) (Lowest Region of the Universe)

The existing accounts of Mesopotamian cosmology are rather limited. Unfortunately they are also conflicting. For a detailed discussion of Mesopotamian cosmology, including the Babylonian world map, see Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography by Wayne Horowitz (1998).


Copyright � 2006-2009 by Gary D. Thompson



http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/~gtosiris/page11-11.html
« Last Edit: July 10, 2009, 07:19:56 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2010, 03:54:38 am »

Quote
It depicts a "bird's-eye" view of the world and shows a flat, round world with the city of Babylon in the centre. (Circa 500 BCE Babylon was still a flourishing city and regarded as the centre (i.e., the "hub") of the world. In the third millennium BCE Nippur was considered to be the city at the centre of the world.) It is likely that the Sumerians made the city of Nippur the centre of the universe (a Sumerian Rome) from about 2300 BCE (just prior to the Ur III Period). Political supremacy was regarded as conditional on the possession of Nippur. With the rise to political supremacy of the Babylonian kings, from the early 2nd-millennium onwards, it was possible for Babylon to claim the central position and replace Nippur as the centre of the universe.

The map depicts the world as two concentric circles, with triangular areas radiating from the outer circle.

I wouldn't read too much into this after all so many of the modern maps show the world as flat or in circles or any number of different geometric designs. Also every country thinks they are the center fo the earth so that doesn't mean much either and really does not reflect political supremacy but maybe envy and one upmanship.
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