Exploring the Mental Terrain of Ancient Mapmaking

A new exhibition on Greco-Roman mapmaking at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in New York examines the relationship between geographic and metaphysical world views.
October 3, 2013, 8am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"Long before people could look upon Earth from afar, completing a full orbit every 90 minutes, the Greeks and the Romans of antiquity had to struggle to understand their world’s size and shape," writes John Noble Wilford. "Their approaches differed: the philosophical Greeks, it has been said, measured the world by the stars; the practical, road-building Romans by milestones."

A new exhibition, “Measuring and Mapping Space: Geographic Knowledge in Greco-Roman Antiquity,” which runs through Jan. 5 at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in New York City, seeks to explore the cognitive foundation underlying mapmaking, from the ancient world to the present. 

"All in all, whether guided by the stars or by imperial roads, the Greeks and the Romans did well in preparing the way to geographic knowledge of worlds known and unknown, real and imaginary," he notes. "They anticipated modern concepts of mapmaking: anything that can be spatially conceived can be mapped."

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Published on Monday, September 30, 2013 in The New York Times
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