Geography and cartography in medieval Islam

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The world map of Al-Idrisi (12th century). Note that South is to the top.
Al-Masudi's atlas of the world.
Kangnido reflects the geographic knowledge of China during the Mongol Empire when geographical information about Western countries became available via Islamic geographers.[1]
This map of the Indian Ocean and the China Sea was engraved in 1728 by the Hungarian-born Ottoman cartographer and publisher Ibrahim Müteferrika; it is one of a series that illustrated Katip Çelebi’s Cihannuma (Universal Geography), the first printed book of maps and drawings to appear in the Islamic world.

I have seen the Rus as they came on their merchant journeys and encamped by the Itil. I have never seen more perfect physical specimens, tall as date palms, blond and ruddy; they wear neither tunics nor kaftans, but the men wear a garment which covers one side of the body and leaves a hand free. Each man has an axe, a sword, and a knife, and keeps each by him at all times. Each woman wears on either breast a box of iron, silver, copper, or gold; the value of the box indicates the wealth of the husband. Each box has a ring from which depends a knife. The women wear neck-rings of gold and silver. Their most prized ornaments are green glass beads. They string them as necklaces for their women.

Ibn Fadlan, on the Rus merchants at Itil, 922.

Geography and cartography in medieval Islam refers to the advancement of geography, cartography and the earth sciences in the medieval Islamic civilization.

After its beginnings in the 8th century based on Hellenistic geography,[2] Islamic geography was patronized by the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad. Various Islamic scholars contributed to its development, and the most notable include Al-Khwārizmī, Abū Zayd al-Balkhī (founder of the 'Balkhī school') and Abu Rayhan Biruni. Muslim geography reached its apex with Muhammad al-Idrisi in the 12th century. Later developments took place under Turks, particularly under the Ottoman Empire, with notable scholars such as Mahmud al-Kashgari and Piri Reis.


Previous learning[edit]

Islamic cartographers inherited Ptolemy's Almagest and Geographia in the 9th century which is said to have stimulated an interest in geography and map-making, however, they made almost no direct use of the latter in map-making.[3] The way in which earlier knowledge reached Muslim scholars is crucial. For example, since Muslims inherited Greek writings directly without the influence of the Latin west, T-O maps play no role in Islamic cartography though popular in the European counterpart.[3] Muslim scientists then made many of their own contributions to geography and the earth sciences.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ (Miya 2006; Miya 2007)
  2. ^ Gerald R. Tibbetts, The Beginnings of a Cartographic Tradition, in: John Brian Harley, David Woodward: Cartography in the Traditional Islamic and South Asian Societies, Chicago, 1992, pp. 90–107 (97-100), ISBN 0-226-31635-1
  3. ^ a b Edson & Savage-Smith 2004, pp. 61–63.

External links[edit]