10 Of The Most Beautiful Maps Ever Created
During much of history, maps were designed as much for beauty and display as for accuracy. When maps were hand-drawn, they were difficult and expensive to produce, and ones designed for personal libraries were appropriately lavish to reflect their status as luxury items. Even in modern times, some map makers design their works to make a point. Others designed them for beauty, and sometimes a map designed for entirely practical purposes is also beautiful.
10Planisphaerium Arateum Sive Compages Orbium Mundanorum Ex Hypothesi Aratea In Plano Expressa
The planisphere of Aratus, or the composition of the heavenly orbits following the hypothesis of Aratus expressed in a planar view, was designed by Andreas Cellarius and published in 1660 as part of his Harmonia Macrocosmica (harmony of the macrocosm). It shows a model of the universe according to the Greek astronomer and poet Aratus. It shows theEarth at the center of the universe, with the Sun, Moon, and other planets orbiting around it, and the signs of the zodiac orbiting around those.
The orbits are particularly graceful, and all the details are clear and precise. Every map in the Harmonia is stunningly beautiful, but this one combines some of the virtues of each.
9The Cedid Atlas Tercumesi
Selim III, then Sultan of the Ottoman empire, engaged in many reforms and modernizations during his reign, and this 1803 atlas was the first known complete printed atlas in the Muslim world to use European-style cartography. Only 50 copies were printed, and many of these were burned in a warehouse fire during a Janissary uprising of those opposed to Selim’s reforms, so it is also one of the rarest printed atlases.
The lettering is remarkably well done, even by the high standards of the day. Each page was mounted on cloth, rather than paper, to make it more durable.
8This Fantasy Map Of Sarkamand
This map of a mighty capital in the desert, seat of the Padisha, was created in Photoshop and Illustrator by Robert Altbauer. The lettering style suggests Arabic, and the name references the extraordinarily beautiful city Samarkand,located in today’s Uzbekistan.
The design of overlapping circles almost looks like photographs of cellular structures. Altbauer has designed maps for games, television, and fantasy novels.
7An Ancient Mappe Of Fairyland
This map, created in 1918, depicts an island that shows the locations of dozens of myths, fairy tales, and folklore. The sources are mostly British, but there are also inspirations from Greek and German myths. You can see Oberon’s kingdom from Midsummer Night’s Dream, King Arthur’s tomb, a mountain where rocs build their nests, Red Riding hood’s cottage, Tom Thumb, Monsalvat (the land where the Holy Grail is guarded by the Grail Knights), and Ulysses’s ship.
Sleigh was inspired by many of the artists of the Arts and Crafts movement, especially William Morris, and this shows in not just the subject matter but the delicacy of the colors. 1918 marked the end of World War I, so it’s quite possible that for Sleigh and those who admired the map, this fantasy land in which even the more dangerous creatures, such as dragons, looked peaceful was a welcome escape.
6Duke’s Plan Of New York
1664 was the year the English captured New York from the Dutch. This map shows several of the original spellings from that time, including Hudson’s River, Longe Isleland, and Mannados. The map was presented to James, the Duke of York, with the expectation that he would name the city after himself.
The design, copied from an earlier Dutch map, blends ornate elements, such as the decorative border and legend, with plenty of empty space depicting land and much of the water. The British ships, added to reinforce that the city became British territory, are drawn so delicately that they emphasize the empty space.
This map, created in Korea around 1800, is known as a Cheonhado. The term means “complete map of all under Heaven” and shows the mystical Mount Meru in the center. In Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu beliefs, Mount Meru is not just the physical but the spiritual center of the universe.
Other countries, with little regard for their relative sizes or geographical location, orbit China and Mount Meru.
4Yongying County In China
This map was created in China sometime between 1734 and 1779 and shows the river systems of Yongying County in China. Unlike most Western maps, the south is at the top and the north at the bottom.
It was painted on silk, and the labels were pasted on. The gentle curves and muted colors give the map a rather tranquil appearance.
In 1583, Michael Aitzinger drew a map that depicted the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium in the shape of a lion, inspired by the lions that were so common in the region’s heraldry. He called it the Leo Belgicus, and it started a trend for mapmakers. The most famous version is by Claes Janszoon Visscher, from 1611.
2Geological Investigation Of The Alluvial Valley Of The Lower Mississippi River
In 1944, Harold Norman Fisk, a geology professor, published this as part of a report for the Army Corps of Engineers. These maps of the changes of the Mississippi River over time look a bit like the undulations of muscle tissue, a bit like ribbon candy, and a bit like abstract art.
The research behind these maps is just as impressive as the maps themselves. Fisk and his team used approximately 16,000 soil samples from various locations around the river and compared them to aerial photographs to establish the old flow patterns.
1Book Of Navigation
The Ottoman admiral Piri Reis designed many gorgeous maps, including the collection in his Book of Navigation, published in 1521. The maps show the delicate precision of Ottoman illuminated manuscripts, and the coloring of the land masses (which were far less important to Reis) has an almost playful note.
His first world map, published in 1513, includes both North and South America. Some people believe the section that shows the southern part of South America and the coast of Antarctica are so accurate that it proves humans explored Antarctica long before the historical record indicates. However, the map has enough mistakes (including an annotation that saysthe region is warm) to make it clear that the points that are accurate are far more likely due to good informed guesses based on Reis’s topography skills.
+A Humorous Diplomatic Atlas Of Europe And Asia
In March, 1904, at the beginning of the Russian-Japanese war, student Kisabur Ohara, published this atlas that showed Russia as an octopus trying to strangle all of Asia and much of Europe. Finland, Poland, Crimea, and the Balkans are already dead and represented by skulls, while Turkey, Persia, and Tibet are caught firmly. Each living country is depicted as a person in the country’s typical costume. One of the octopus’s arms is reaching toward Korea and Port Arthur, ready to throttle those, as well.
Previous maps had shown Russia as an octopus reaching greedily across Asia, but this is the first known one to show Europe at risk as well. Even without the text, the map does a remarkable job of portraying Russia as a bestial menace and other countries at risk.
The largest lake in California is slowly fading away, and that’s bad news for local residents. As the Salton Sea’s water sources dwindle, southern Californians are bracing themselves for toxic dust storms, noxious smells—and disease.
The Salton Sea is massive, but shallow, artificial lake located on the San Andreas Fault, some 125 miles (200 km) southeast of Los Angeles. It was accidentally created in 1905 in an effort to increase water flow into the area. But owing to policy changes in water apportionments, its overall water level has been steadily declining, and is expected to decrease significantly over the next six years. Conservation, drought, and water laws are all contributing to the problem.
Frighteningly, the drought is not only threatening the economic vitality of the region, it’s also poisoning local residents. Over the years, the lake has served as a sump for fertilizer-and pesticide-laden runoff. As the lake shrinks, thousands of previously submerged acres are suddenly becoming exposed. It’s feared that dust storms will carry fine particles over a wide area, spreading toxins and noxious odors, while contributing to diseases such as asthma.
The before-and-after false-color pics shown above were acquired by satellites over a span of three decades. The first was taken on May 31, 1984, the second on June 14, 2015. NASA explains more:
Tim Krantz, an environmental studies professor and Salton Sea expert at the University of Redlands, notes that the most obvious changes have been to the lake’s southern shoreline. Deltas of the New and Alamo rivers are fully exposed in 2015, whereas in 1984 they represented proper “bird-foot” deltas. The deltas were exposed due to a 2.4-meter (8-foot) drop in the lake’s surface elevation since 1984. The lake spans 960 square kilometers (370 square miles), but it is shallow—just 16 meters (52 feet) at its deepest point. This makes it extremely sensitive to even slight reductions of inflow. As a result, vast expanses of the lakebed are easily exposed.
“The changes from 1984 to 2015 are the result of other water conservation activities in the watershed, such as wastewater treatment going online in Mexicali, and lining of the Coachella and All-American diversion canals from the Colorado River,” Krantz said. “These are all good things, but they mean less water in the Salton Sea.”
Areas of agriculture around the lake have changed as well. Healthy plants with active chlorophyll are highly reflective in the near infrared; they appear red in these images. Over 30 years, a greater amount of agricultural land has become brown and fallow, particularly along the southwestern shoreline.
In response to the looming catastrophe, activists, politicians, and water officials have pleaded with the state water board in Sacramento to do something about it, but progress has been slow, if not non-existent.
The 10 Most Controversial Miracles
Acts of God
But as science has marched forward, many seeming miracles wind up having scientific explanations. Still others are shown to be elaborate hoaxes.
Even so, belief in miracles continues. And despite scientific progress, there are still many miraculous phenomena that haven’t been explained.
From liquefying blood to bleeding statues, here are some of the most famous and controversial miracles in history.
Credit: nullIn 1981 in the small town of Medjugorje in what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina, six children reported seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary. For years they claimed to receive daily messages and so far have allegedly received thousands of prophecies.
“One is a prediction that there are 10 secrets that will reveal the end of the world,” said Michael O’Neill, who runs the websiteMiracleHunter.com.
Though the Vatican has never officially weighed in, the site has attracted millions of pilgrims over the years. In 2010, the Vatican agreed to investigate this event and should have its findings out in the next few months, O’Neill said. [Doomsday: 9 Real Ways Earth Could End]
Credit: Chad Zuber | ShutterstockIn 1531 in the fields near Mexico City, a peasant named Juan Diego claimed to see an apparition of the Virgin Mary, who asked that a church be built in her honor. The Virgin also asked the man to gather flowers on a hillside, which he did and placed in his cloak. Afterwards, the cloak appeared to hold the imprint of the Virgin Mary. Though there have been a few scientific analyses of the so-called Our Lady of Guadalupe miracle over the years, no one has come to a definitive conclusion as to whether or how the image was painted, and if so, how it has been preserved so well.
Credit: Public DomainLegend has it that a Cathedral in Naples holds a vial of blood from an early Christian martyr, St. Januarius. Reportedly, the blood is dry most of the year, but mysteriously liquefies three times throughout the year, on days commemorating his life and impact.
Credit: Public DomainIn the 1600s, the saint and mystic St. Joseph of Cupertino entered into a religious trance and reportedly began hovering over the crowds. He apparently experienced this levitation multiple times — one time in front of Pope Urban VIII. As a result of his flying exploits, this mystic is the patron saint of pilots. In more recent history, other instances of levitation have been revealed as visual illusions, hoaxes or hallucinations.
Credit: Stephanie Pappas, LiveScienceSeveral people throughout history have claimed to have stigmata, injuries similar to those Jesus Christ received during the crucifixion. One man, St. Pio of Pietrelcina reportedly had bleeding on his palms. However, skeptics say such miracle claims can be frauds or self-inflicted wounds.
Credit: danielo | ShutterstockIn 1973, a statue in a little church in Akita, Japan, allegedly began to bleed soon after Sister Agnes Sasagawa at the church had an apparition of the Virgin Mary. The statue continued to cry, sweat and bleed for several years and was even captured on national television. The Sister Agnes, who was deaf prior to the apparition, also regained her hearing about a decade later.
Credit: Public DomainIn 1968, people in the Zeitoun district of Cairo, Egypt, reported seeing anapparition of an illuminated woman walking on the roof of a Coptic church. Many considered this to be an apparition of the Virgin Mary. The event was reportedly seen by many onlookers and even captured in photographs. So far, no one has found evidence that those photos were manipulated. The head of the Coptic Church in Alexandria declared this a legitimate miracle.
Credit: | ShutterstockDozens of saints reportedly do not decay after death, instead exuding a sweet and floral odor, which is considered a mark of sanctity. One example is St. Bernadette Soubirous, who died in 1879. In 1909, a bishop exhumed her and found that she had not decayed. She is now displayed, covered in wax imprints, in the Chapel of St. Bernadette in France.
Shroud of Turin
Though not strictly a miracle, the Shroud of Turin is one of the most famous relics in history. The shroud is allegedly the burial shroud of Jesus and contains an imprint of his face. Subsequent research has revealed that at least parts of the relic date to Medieval times, suggesting it was an elaborate hoax. However, follow-up research found the shroud could be much older — dating to between 280 B.C. to A.D. 220 — well within Jesus’s lifespan. [Religious Mysteries: 8 Alleged Relics of Jesus]
The Origins of Religion: How Supernatural Beliefs Evolved
Many Catholics reveled in the pope’s whirlwind visit to the East Coast of the United States last month. But as the devout return to life as usual, nonreligious Americans may be left scratching their heads, wondering what all the fuss was about.
The vast majority of the U.S. population does not belong to the Catholic Church, and a growing percentage of Americans are not affiliated with any organized religion at all, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Centers. So the question then becomes, what role does religion play in today’s American society? Perhaps oddly, that question can be answered by a group of people not usually associated with religion: scientists.
Despite the popular belief that science and religion (or science and the supernatural, more generally) don’t quite go hand in hand, scientists have quite a lot to say about this topic — specifically, why such beliefs even exist in the first place.
The ‘god faculty’
There are many theories as to how religious thought originated. But two of the most widely cited ideas have to do with how early humans interacted with their natural environment, said Kelly James Clark, a senior research fellow at the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.
Picture this: You’re a human being living many thousands of years ago. You’re out on the plains of the Serengeti, sitting around, waiting for an antelope to walk by so you can kill it for dinner. All of a sudden, you see the grasses in front of you rustling. What do you do? Do you stop and think about what might be causing the rustling (the wind or a lion, for example), or do you immediately take some kind of action?
“On the plains of the Serengeti, it would be better to not sit around and reflect. People who took their time got selected out,” Clark told Live Science. Humans who survived to procreate were those who had developed what evolutionary scientists call a hypersensitive agency-detecting device, or HADD, he said.
In short, HADD is the mechanism that lets humans perceive that many things have “agency,” or the ability to act of their own accord. This understanding of how the world worked facilitated the rapid decision-making process that humans had to go through when they heard a rustling in the grass. (Lions act of their own accord. Better run.)
But in addition to helping humans make rational decisions, HADD may have planted the seeds for religious thought. In addition to attributing agency to lions, for example, humans started attributing agency to things that really didn’t have agency at all. [5 Ways Our Caveman Instincts Get the Best of Us]
“You might think that raindrops aren’t agents,” Clark said. “They can’t act of their own accord. They just fall. And clouds just form; they’re not things that can act. But what human beings have done is to think that clouds are agents. They think [clouds] can act,” Clark said of early humans.
And then humans took things to a whole new level. They started attributing meaning to the actions of things that weren’t really acting of their own accord. For example, they thought raindrops were “acting for a purpose,” Clark said.
Acting for a purpose is the basis for what evolutionary scientists call the Theory of Mind (ToM) — another idea that’s often cited in discussions about the origins of religion. By attributing intention or purpose to the actions of beings that did have agency, like other people, humans stopped simply reacting as quickly as possible to the world around them — they started anticipating what other beings’ actions might be and planning their own actions accordingly. (Being able to sort of get into the mind of another purposeful being is what Theory of Mind is all about.)
ToM was very helpful to early humans. It enabled them to discern other people’s positive and negative intentions (e.g., “Does that person want to mate with me or kill me and steal my food?”), thereby increasing their own chances of survival.
But when people started attributing purpose to the actions of nonactors, like raindrops, ToM took a turn toward the supernatural. [Infographic: Americans’ Beliefs in Paranormal Phenomena]
“The roaring threat of a thunderstorm or the devastation of a flood is widely seen across cultures as the product of a dangerous personal agent in the sky or river, respectively,” said Allen Kerkeslager, an associate professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.”Likewise, the movements of the sun, moon and stars are widely explained as the movements of personal agents with extraordinary powers,”Kerkeslager told Live Science in an email.
This tendency to explain the natural world through the existence ofbeings with supernatural powers — things like gods, ancestral spirits, goblins and fairies — formed the basis for religious beliefs, according to many cognitive scientists. Collectively, some scientists refer to HADD and ToM as the “god faculty,” Clark said.
In fact, human beings haven’t evolved past this way of thinking and making decisions, he added.
“Now, we understand better that the things we thought were agents aren’t agents,” Clark said. “You can be educated out of some of these beliefs, but you can’t be educated out of these cognitive faculties. We all have a hyperactive agency-detecting device. We all have a theory of mind.”
For the good of the group
But not everyone agrees that religious thinking is just a byproduct of evolution — in other words, something that came about as a result of nonreligious, cognitive faculties. Some scientists see religion as more of an adaptation — a trait that stuck around because the people who possessed it were better able to survive and pass on their genes.
Robin Dunbar is an evolutionary psychologist and anthropologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom whose work focuses mostly on the behavior of primates, including nonhuman primates like baboons. Dunbar thinks religion may have evolved as what he calls a “group-level adaptation.” Religion is a “kind of glue that holds society together,” Dunbar wrote in “How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar’s Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks” (Harvard University Press, 2010).
Humans may have developed religion as a way to promote cooperation in social groups, Dunbar said. He noted that primates tend to live in groups because doing so benefits them in certain ways. For instance, hunting in groups is more effective than hunting alone. But living in groups also has drawbacks. Namely, some individuals take advantage of the system. Dunbar calls these people “freeriders.”
“Freeriding is disruptive because it loads the costs of the social contract onto some individuals, while others get away with paying significantly less,” Dunbar wrote in a New Scientist article, “The Origin of Religion as a Small-Scale Phenomenon.” As a result, those who have been exploited become less willing to support the social contract. In the absence of sufficient benefit to outweigh these costs, individuals will leave in order to be in smaller groups that incur fewer costs.”
But if the group can figure out a way to get everyone to behave in an unselfish way, individual members of the group are less likely to storm off, and the group is more likely to remain cohesive.
Religion may have naturally sprung up from this need to keep everybody on the same page, Dunbar said. Humans’ predisposition to attribute intention to just about everything (e.g., volcanic eruptions, lunar eclipses, thunderstorms) isn’t necessarily the reason religion came about, but it helps to explain why religions typically involve supernatural elements that describe such phenomena.
Survey of the Attitudes of American Catholics (Infographic)