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a short histoy of maps    Humanity's tendency to measure things and record these measurements graphically is universal. The oldest maps found to date are from Babylon. They date from 2,300 BC and were molded in clay. In these maps there are field measurements which were used by the authorities for raising taxes. Maps from some centuries later, found in China, were used for dividing land up. At the same time, on the Marshall Islands, vegetable fibre was used to make maps showing the islands in the Pacific ocean. They may be the first sea maps or plans. The Inca and Maya civilizations also used cartography. They showed the territories they conquered on their maps.
In the fourth century BC the Greek philosopher Anaximander made a round map of the known world. The islands in the Aegean sea were the "known world" at that time. In the second century BC, Eratosthenes widened the idea of the known world: the river Ganges to the east, the island known as Great Britain to the west, Lybia to the south, the start of the Scandinavian peninsula to the north. On this map vertical and horizontal lines appeared for the first time. In 150 AD Ptolomy wrote his "Geographia" and included many maps in the book. This is the first known atlas. The Romans continued to develop cartography but, when the empire was destroyed, the science of cartography disappeared from Europe. With the exception of a few monks who chose Jerusalem as the centre of the world, cartography took a huge step backwards. At the same time, however, Arabian sailors drew up incredibly reliable maps. The savant Muhammad al-Idrisi made a new map of the world in 1154. And later, in the 13th century, Mediterranean sailors drew up a map without meridian or parallels but with all the main ports on a lined sea map.
In 1507 Martin Waldseem ller, a German geographer, put the name America onto a map for the first time. This was a tribute to Américo Vespuccio. This sailor, on leaving the sea and settling in Seville, distributed the maps of his voyages. In 1570 the Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius put 70 maps together to publish the first modern atlas, "Orbis Terrarum".
At that time, getting hold of maps and knowing how to read them was very important. Maps were the only tools for travelling and they were not as reliable as they are today. Gerardus Mercator was the greatest cartographer and map collector of the age. He studied numerous maps and his lined map was an indispensable tool for the navigators of the time.
From the 17th century onwards maps' accuracy improved considerably. Latitude and longitude began to be calculated better and the size and shape of the world began to be better known. Maps showing sea currents also began to appear in the middle of the century. Cartographical principles were established during this century and the only serious mistakes were now in areas which had not yet been explored. In the 18th century there was another important change in map making. The desire to discover new lands waned and European nationalism was born. Each nation started to make exact measurements of its land and frontiers. France, the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland and Spain set to this work with great enthusiasm. In 1879 the Geological Survey was founded in the United States to make a
topographical map of the whole country. In 1891 at the International Geographical Congress the protect to map the whole world at a scale of 1:1,000,000 was started and it has yet to be concluded. In the 20th century cartography incorporated numerous new techniques. Firstly photographs from aeroplanes and then satellite photographs revolutionised topographical and geodesic maps. Even so, many parts of the world have still not been properly mapped and this is even more true of the planets. The oceans also hold many secrets and hidden places for cartographers and geographers.