Home / Funny / Viral / Explore The Incredibly Accurate Medieval World Map Created In The 12th Century


Our perception of the world is shaped by cartographers, also called map makers. Not everyone has the good fortune to visit every continent and see every ocean. The fact that they are confined to Earth and can only see the horizon in front of them limits the perspective of even the fortunate travellers who can achieve such a feat. Before GPS and aeroplane travel, before sophisticated cartography methods and convenient travel, map creators had to make do with the limitations of their time for centuries.

But one scholar, Muhammad al-Idrisi, could go above and beyond and produce an incredibly accurate depiction of the world as he knew it. Al-Idrisi, a Northern African adventurer and Islamic scholar from the 12th century, was commissioned by the King of Sicily to create a magnificent engraved silver map that is now lost and printed works that served as the most accurate points of reference for three centuries.

About 1100, Al-Idrisi was born in Sabtah, a medieval city that is today the independent Spanish city of Ceuta in Northern Africa, adjacent to Morocco. He received his education in mainland Spain's Andalusia region, in the city of Cordoba. Compared to many medieval nobles, he traveled far more during his adult life, visiting parts of France, York in England, Hungary, and even Asia. The Norman King Roger II of Sicily commissioned a work at his court because of his knowledge of world customs. There, al-Idrisi collaborated with the king and other academics to create a global map.

The last project, which took fifteen years to complete, was a map engraved on a silver disk six feet wide. In addition, Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi ikhtiraq al-afaqI, which roughly translates to "the book of pleasant journeys into faraway lands," was compiled by Al-Idrisi and included text and maps. The map explicitly rejected the fantastical animals and locations that are frequently found on other medieval maps, such as the Mappa Mundi, and instead relied on knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome that had been preserved during the Islamic Golden Age.

In contrast to our contemporary versions, Al-Idrisi'smap—also called Tabula Rogeriana in Latin—shows the world upside down. South points up in this instance, which is consistent with other Islamic maps from the time. While the original Latin paperwork and the silver disk map have been lost for centuries, the Arabic version endured long enough to be copied during the Middle Ages. Ten manuscripts from the historical work still exist today, dispersed across various collections worldwide. These are incomplete maps that show, for example, Sicily or the Balkans. A German historian named Konrad Miller didn't piece the entire map back together to create the version that might have been on the silver disk until the 1920s. 

Super Bowl Makes History For Being Fully Powered By 600,000 Solar Panels
ASL Super Bowl Performer, Justina Miles Praised For Her Energetic Rihanna Show Performance
Bronze Age Couple Lovingly Embracing Each Other Discovered After 3000 Years
2003 Interview Reveals Real First Name Of Famous Banksy Artist
Lost Gustav Klimt Painting Finally Rediscovered
New Discovered Earth-Like Planet Is Perfectly Placed To Have Water
Self Balancing Wheelchair Gives Little Bit Of Normality To Disabled
Painting Created By All Four Members Of The Beatles Sells For Almost $2 Million
Chef Takes Remarkable Steps In Dealing With a Very Rude Customer