Early Map History

Paul's Babylonian MapEveryone appreciates good directions. Maps serve every aspect of a society from small villages and their surrounding areas, to huge metropolises. Community maps are references that everyone can relate with. Simple diagrams of streets, roads, landmarks, trade routes and all other points of importance are included on an ordinary map. We tend to take maps for granted, but without them how could we develop?

Catering to their innate sense of direction, people were initially guided by observing the sky. Physical maps have been discovered which date back thousands of years, but the constellations were our earliest navigational references. Relying on the sky to get a bigger picture, our ancestors began to observe the position of the celestial bodies over geographic landmarks.

The first maps don’t have the same orientations that we commonly see today. For example, directions were not depicted as north or south, but by the placement of the sun, the moon and the stars at certain times of the day or year. Eventually trails were recorded indicated by the bent tree sampling, the hill, mountain, meadow or stream. The North Star, Polaris gave guidance at night and the cycles of the moon offered visual references.