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Science & Education                   1,000 AD
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

the Globe

 After mercury, no additional metal was discovered for nearly 2,000 years, when, in the thirteenth century, Albertus Magnus discovered arsenic. Another 300 years would pass after his find until antimony become the ninth metal to be discovered. (69)

Africa

 

Southwest Asia

 

Egypt

 

Indus Valley

 

China

 Hapgood was to make one more important discovery: a Chinese map copied from an earlier original on to a stone pillar in AD 1137. This map incorporates precisely the same kind of high quality information about longitudes as the others. It has a similar grid and was drawn up with the benefit of spherical trigonometry. Indeed, on close examination, it shares so many features with the European and Middle Eastern maps that only one explanation seems adequate: it and they must have stemmed from a common source. (152)

Europe

 The vast majority of the portolans depict only the Mediterranean/Black Sea area and the countries immediately round about, but some are world maps, or world atlases, for which the style and approach of the Mediterranean portolans serves as a basis. These old charts are drawn to the highest cartographical standards and are uncannily accurate - so accurate, though the earliest examples go back to the end of the thirteenth century, that they were not surpassed by new scientific techniques, measurements and observations for almost 500 years. The portolan charts were quite unlike contemporary medieval maps. They often incorporated detail of remarkable accuracy, based on close and actual observation, rather than the conventional medieval habit of repeating cartographical and mythical information issued by the Church. And A. E. Nordenskiold, the world's greatest authority on the portolans, reminds researchers that: Notwithstanding all the progress made during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in the art of drawing maps with the aid of newly invented nautical instruments, there was published a chart in Holland in 1595 by one of its most expert mariners which is only a copy, or rather a copy of copies, of portolanos drawn 250 to 300 years earlier. This is an extremely remarkable fact in the history of civilization. But moreover the principal features of the portolanos from the beginning of the fourteenth century are still to be found on Van Keulen's sea-charts of 1681-1722. I suppose that up to the beginning of the nineteenth century the influence of the old portolan charts may yet be traced on the charts of several parts of the Mediterranean and Black Seas. In my opinion, therefore, Peter Whitfield is right to evaluate the Carta Pisane, the oldest surviving portolan in the world, as 'one of the most enigmatic charts in the history of mapmaking'. In his 1996 study, Charting of the Oceans, he elaborates on this theme: The appearance of this chart (and of the others which survive from the following century) is one of the most mysterious events in the history of mapmaking. A glance at the Pisan Chart immediately reveals two outstanding features: the coastlines of the Mediterranean are drawn with striking accuracy; and the map is covered with a network of lines radiating from two central points, which clearly impose the form of the compass over the whole map. How did this highly accurate map suddenly appear in medieval Italy, and how exactly was it linked to the compass? Was it the original work of a single individual, or was it descended from a line of much older charts which had been developing for centuries? The former is difficult to believe, but the latter cannot explain why there is no shred of evidence for the existence of such maps before 1270. Whether we set the date of the Pisane between 1270 and 1290 (as Whitfield suggests, or a little later - between 1295 and 1300 - as other scholars have argued, we've seen that that there was no significant evolution afterwards. No fewer than eighteen of the thirty-two star points appear to be identical in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific systems... [There is] every reason to believe that what we term 'Polynesian-Micronesian' navigation was merely part of a system once practiced through all the Asian seas, and which very probably did not even originate in Oceania at all. (124)

 India's coastlines in Reinal map of AD 1510 (above)

India's coastlines in 11,500 BC (Below)

1. Today this is the mouth of the Indus river, which is a delta. But on both Reinal's and Milne's maps, it is marked by a wide gulf.
2. A large bulge that in both Reinal's and Milne's maps replaces the Kathiawar peninsula that exists today.
3. An island (or island-group) which is depicted on both maps but which does not exist today.
4. A gulf which on both maps is much smaller than the Gulf of Cambay that exists today.
5. A large island (or island-group) which is depicted on both maps but which does not exist today.
6. An island at the same latitude as the northernmost Lakshadweep island (approximately 12 degrees north) is shown on both Reinal's and Milne's maps. No island exists there today.
7. The Lakshadweep islands, which exist today but which are enlarged in both Reinal's and Milne's maps.
8. The tip of the sub-continent. Both maps show the tip of the sub-continent somewhat like a bay, wide but not deep, facing south-west towards the northern Maldives - very different from the south-east-facing tip that exists today.
9. A tiny island which is depicted on both Reinal's and Milne's maps next to the southern tip of the sub-continent. No island exists there today.
10. The Maldive islands, which exist today but which are enlarged in both Reinal's and Milne's maps. (124)

The survival of such maps, or copies of copies of copies of them, among mariners in the Mediterranean and along the Atlantic seaboard of Europe since time immemorial would explain the ancient yearning to discover an 'immense land' in the west. It would explain the ancient certainty that such a land was there. And it would explain why, down the generations, hard-headed seafarers and adventurers were again and again prepared to mount hazardous expeditions to try to find the great continent and islands that the maps told them lay out in the Atlantic. (124)

South America

 Records of taxes, transactions and census figures were kept with the aid of the quipu, a set of strings tied into knots at different levels according to a decimal notation system that was used by a special hereditary class of accountants to memorize the information.  (52)

The Moche were especially skilled metalworkers, using gold, silver and copper in innovative combinations and developing a chemical plating process for gilding copper objects. This technology had disappeared among the societies encountered by Europeans after 1492. The Moche civilization collapsed near the end of the eighth century for reasons unknown. When the Spanish arrived in Peru in 1528, the Incas ruled the area where the Moche had once flourished. But archaeologists have come to realize that much of the Inca art and technology was based on the innovations of earlier cultures, notably the Moche, who are known to posterity almost entirely through the beautiful ornaments and art from their tombs. (102)

It is clear that the existence of a class of professional, trained astronomers in the pre-Columbian Andes cannot be laid at the door of romantic imagination. For such a tale as this to exist, there must also have existed a series of conventions: systematic observation, very accurate record-keeping, and, finally, the formulation of myths for the long-term preservation of celestial events perceived as Significant. People who stayed up all night to watch the skies on behalf of the community cannot have been required to work all day in the fields as well. This fact in turn discloses the fundamental reason for the authoritative nature and role of Andean myth in Andean life: as members of a professional guild, the priest-astronomers of the Andes were trained to keep accurate records. The training that they underwent, and the feats of observation and recording that they were capable of producing, were the result of a direct and continuous transmission of know-how from the distant past. Trained in such a tradition, the Andean priest-astronomers therefore trusted the mythic database implicitly because they understood how it had been formed, and the meticulousness of their own labors became the measure of their respect for their predecessors. The Andean mythical "database" was a history of synchronous events. Its astronomical observations, although demonstrably precise, were not, therefore, "scientific observations" in any sense that we understand the term. Andean astronomical observation--aside from the practical application of keeping the calendar--was undertaken not to find out how things work, but to find out what things mean. (167)

Mesoamerica

 When Chatelain initially heard of the immense Mayan numbers, he at first failed to attach any great significance to them. Years later he came across the notes he had made, and was intrigued by two huge numbers that had been found on steles at Quiriga, in Guatemala, the intellectual centre of the Mayan culture. Both were given (presumably) in days, which was the measure the Maya used. He translated these into years, and found that one number was just under 93 million years, while the other was 403 million years. His work with the Nineveh constant had made him curious, and he tried dividing the numbers by the Nineveh constant. He felt stunned when he realized that 93 million years is exactly 15 times larger than the Nineveh constant, while 403 million is 65 times larger. (123)

North America

 

Other