Portal:Atlas

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The Atlas Portal

Political and physical world map from the end of 2005

An atlas is a collection of maps, traditionally bound into book form, but now most often found in multimedia formats. As well as geographic features and political boundaries, many often feature geopolitical, social, religious and economic statistics.

The first book that could be called an atlas was constructed from the calculations of Claudius Ptolemy, a Greek geographer working in Alexandria circa A.D. 150. The first edition was published in Bologna in 1477 and was illustrated with a set of 27 maps, though scholars say that it is not known whether the printed maps were engraved versions of original maps made by Ptolemy, or whether they were constructed by medieval Greek scholars from Ptolemy's text.

Atlas of Greek mythology

The origin of the term atlas is a common source of misconception, perhaps because two different mythical figures named 'Atlas' are associated with mapmaking. King Atlas, a mythical King of Mauretania, was, according to legend, a wise philosopher, mathematician and astronomer who supposedly made the first celestial globe. However, the more widely known Atlas is a figure from Greek mythology.

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Map of Ancient Egypt
Credit: Jeff Dahl
Ancient Egypt reached its greatest extent in the second millennium BC, during the New Kingdom. It stretched from the Nile Delta in the north as far south as Jebel Barkal at the Fourth Cataract of the Nile, in modern-day Sudan.

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Map of Earth showing lines of latitude (horizontally) and longitude (vertically)

A geographic coordinate system enables every location on the Earth to be specified in three coordinates, using mainly a spherical coordinate system. The Earth is not a sphere, but an irregular shape approximating an ellipsoid; the challenge is to define a coordinate system that can accurately state each topographical feature as an unambiguous set of numbers.

Latitude is the angle from a point on the Earth's surface and the equatorial plane, measured from the centre of the sphere. The north pole is 90° N; the south pole is 90° S. The 0° parallel of latitude is designated the equator. The equator is the fundamental plane of all geographic coordinate systems. The equator divides the globe into Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Longitude is the angle east or west of a reference meridian between the two geographical poles to another meridian that passes through an arbitrary point. All meridians are halves of great circles, and are not parallel. They converge at the north and south poles.

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Piri Reis' map of Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, and North Africa

Piri Reis (full name Hadji Muhiddin Piri Ibn Hadji Mehmed) was an Ottoman-Turkish admiral and cartographer born between 1465 and 1470 in Gallipoli on the Aegean coast of Turkey.

He is primarily known today for his maps and charts collected in his Kitab-ı Bahriye (Book of Navigation), a book which contains detailed information on navigation as well as extremely accurate charts describing the important ports and cities of the Mediterranean Sea. He gained fame as a cartographer when a small part of his first world map (prepared in 1513) was discovered in 1929 at Topkapı Palace in Istanbul. The most surprising aspect was the presence of the Americas on an Ottoman map, making it the first Turkish map ever drawn of the Americas.

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