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Cartographica Helvetica


Fuat Sezgin (فؤاد سزكين‎):

Arabian origin of European maps

Cartographica Helvetica 24 (2001) 21–28


Without the accomplishments by Arabic geographers and cartographers since the 9th century, the European conception of the world in the last millennium would have been completely different.

A series of questions concerning European geography have been discussed for the last 150 years and can only be solved in the light of the mathematical geography and cartography practiced intensively by the neighboring Islamic cultures rather than with the traditional European approach. A legacy of the Arabic-Islamic cartography are the world map and a few parts of maps produced by a large group of scholars commissioned by the Abbasidian caliph al-Ma'mun in the first quarter of the 9th century. Islamic scholars such as al-Biruni, al-Idrisi and Abu l-Fida' are credited with the construction of the so-called Portolan map. This map contained a system of grid lines, showed the shape of Africa, which appeared on European maps only since the 13th century, and contained the exact cartographic representation of the triangular form of the Indian subcontinent.

Bibliographic note

  • Edited version of: Der Kalif al-Mamun und sein Beitrag zur Weltkarte. In: Forschung Frankfurt 18, 4 (2000) pp. 22–31.
  • See also: Richtigstellung. In: Cartographica Helvetica 25 (2002) p. 53.

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