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The Draw of Wall Maps

Aug 25, 2008
No one knows just how long map making has been around, but it is almost certain that for 8,000 years humans have used wall maps, and without a shadow of a doubt wall maps preceded writing. We know this because there are wall maps scribed onto the walls of caves by the men and women who lived in them. Also, examples of ancient maps of Babylon, Greece and Asia have been found by archaeologists and they precede writing in those countries as well.

It is easy to say that the very first maps were actually wall maps because early cave dwellers didn't have parchment or papyrus to draw their maps onto. Therefore, the genesis of map making is indeed the creation of wall maps.

So we know how old wall maps are but why did early man decide to take a charred stick and try and record the surrounding area? Well, a map is a very powerful thing to posses for so many reasons: strategic, defining ownership and probably more importantly to show others where they could find food and even enemies.

The Polynesian people who extensively explored and settled the Pacific islands during the first two millenniums AD used wall maps mounted on their vessels to navigate across large distances. A surviving wall map from the Marshall Islands uses sticks tied in a grid with palm strips representing wave and wind patterns, with shells attached to show the location of islands.

Early wall maps would have had one thing in common and that is they would have been reasonably local and never based on the fact that the Earth is actually a globe. This trend would have continued until in sometime in the 3rd century when Greek philosophers including Aristotle began to suggest that the earth was spherical.

Wall map themes range from climate, relief (elevation), land use, and vegetation, to political boundaries, historical events, industrial areas and transportation routes. Along with these themes it could be said that there is most likely a wall map for every taste and occasion.

But don't forget that the wall maps we admire now were probably the only reference material a person in the 15th and 16th century would have had about the world we live in.

Those times were so very different from today when wall maps nowadays are mainly used as collector's items. The two main reasons for this are firstly, it is just nice to have such a beautiful ornament on the wall and secondly, they are in some cases incredibly valuable.

For instance, a wall map created in Rome in the 5th century was accurately copied in the 12th century and today it is still readable, although it cannot be exposed to sunlight. Also, many rural maps from Europe produced in the 15th and 17th centuries are available for sale because they were printed in rather large numbers and some survived times test of wear and tear.

In short, the collector and the hobbyist alike love wall maps and even if they aren't local depictions they have some knowledge of the subject and delight in showing others if they are given the chance. The draw to wall maps can also be attributed to the fact that they are either of our planet, parts of our Planet, or even the Cosmos above and as such, we feel a connection to them.
About the Author
Find more free information and resources about wall maps at: http://www.allwallmaps.com
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