Geography and cartography in medieval Islam

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Muslim geography was based on Hellenistic geography and reached its apex with Muhammad al-Idrisi in the 12th century.

After its beginnings in the 8th century based on Hellenistic geography,[1] 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.

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.[2] 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.[2] Muslim scientists then made many of their own contributions to geography and the earth sciences. In the 11th century, Uyghur scholar Mahmud al-Kashgari was the first to draw an ethnographic map of the Turkic peoples of Central Asia. Later (post-medieval) developments took place under the Ottoman Empire, with notable cartographer Piri Reis.


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Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ a b Edson & Savage-Smith 2004, pp. 61–63.
  3. ^ (Miya 2006; Miya 2007)

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