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An anatopism (from the Greek ἀνά, "against," and τόπος, "place") is something that is out of its proper place. Thus, for example, an outrigger canoe would be an anatopism in Madrid.

The concept of anatopism is less widely familiar than that of anachronism, perhaps because much that is anatopistic is also anachronistic. Yet the distinction is a valid one; not all that is anatopistic is necessarily also anachronistic.

The online Collins English Dictionary gives a synonym for "anatopism": anachorism (from Greek: ana- + khōros, "place"): "a geographical misplacement; something located in an incongruent position".[1]


Catherine Hardwicke's 2006 film The Nativity Story shows a field of maize in a Nazareth farming scene. Maize is native to Mesoamerica, not to the Middle East, and in pre-Columbian times was grown only in the Americas. The use of maize in this film is an anatopism as well as an anachronism.

The same anatopism appears in the first part ("The Warrior Pharaohs") of a three-part 2002 PBS documentary series on "Egypt's Golden Empire" depicting the history of ancient Egypt's New Kingdom: ears of maize corn are shown in a scene recreating the battle and siege of Megiddo in the 15th century BCE.

Ridley Scott's 2000 film, Gladiator, set in 180 CE, features Roman soldiers riding horses using saddles with stirrups. While the Romans had had saddles since about 100 BCE, and stirrups had existed in the world since about 700 BCE, stirrups did not appear in Europe until about the 6th or 7th century CE, making them both anatopic and anachronistic.

John Ford's much-lauded 1939 film Stagecoach was filmed in Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border, but textually set in southern Arizona and southern New Mexico. The vegetation and topography of Monument Valley and the lower-altitude deserts are vastly different, rendering the film's actual location notably anatopic.

The Polish writer Bolesław Prus, for the sake of making a point, introduces into chapter 63 of his historical novel Pharaoh, set in the ancient Egypt of 1087–1085 BCE, a substance that behaves like gunpowder.[2] This appears to be both an anachronism and an anatopism, since gunpowder is thought to have been invented, some time later, in China or in Arabia. Another apparent anatopism introduced by the author (in chapter 45) is an object that resembles a telescope,[3] that may also be an anachronism.

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  • Bolesław Prus, Pharaoh, translated from the Polish by Christopher Kasparek, Warsaw, Polestar Publications, and New York, Hippocrene Books, 2001, ISBN 83-88177-01-X.