South-up map orientation

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A south-up map centered on the Prime Meridian
The Blue Marble photograph in its original orientation

South-up map orientation places the labeling on a map so that south is up, north is down, east is left and west is right. Thus the Southern Hemisphere appears at the top of the map instead of the usual bottom. Maps in this orientation are sometimes called upside down maps or reversed maps.

Because orienting north toward the top is a matter of convention rather than correctness, a south-up map is technically just as correct as north-up. Such maps have been made in several cultures and time periods, as have other orientations. The convention of orienting north to the top (and thus east to the right) was probably established by the astronomer Ptolemy.[citation needed] In modern times, south-up maps are made as a learning device or to illustrate Northern Hemisphere bias. Beyond just turning a north-up map upside down, a south-up map has the text oriented to be read with south up. South-up maps often have Indonesia placed in the center while Europe and the Americas are placed to the sides, although there are south-up maps centered on the Prime Meridian.[1]

Any orientation can be achieved trivially. There are many other maps with non-standard orientation, such as medieval T and O maps, polar maps, and Dymaxion maps.

Psychological significance[edit]

Map of Europe, showing south at the top

A map's orientation is a trivial technical matter and therefore the cartographic literature barely discusses it. As a psychological matter, however, at least one study suggests that the prevailing north-up convention has influenced people to think of north as "good" and south as "bad".[2]

In popular culture[edit]

The famous "Blue Marble" photograph of the Earth taken from on board Apollo 17 was originally oriented with the south pole at the top, with the island of Madagascar visible just left of center, and the continent of Africa at its right. However, the image was rotated to fit the traditional view.[3]

Uruguayan constructivist artist Joaquín Torres García created several works depicting a map of South America with the southern point at the top.

South-up maps are commonly available as novelties or sociopolitical statements in southern hemisphere locales, particularly Australia.[4]

A south-up Peters map was featured in the American television show The West Wing (season 2, episode 16). The set of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore features a south-up map of the globe behind Wilmore's desk.

In his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins references the south-up map as a way to raise consciousness of biases that are taught in the classroom.

The Wizard of New Zealand is known for advocating a south-up map, also having produced one using the Hobo–Dyer projection which placed New Zealand and Australia top-centre.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ South-up map centered on the Prime Meridian
  2. ^ Meier, Brian P.; Moller, Arlen C.; Chen, Julie J.; Riemer-Peltz, Miles (2011). "Spatial Metaphor and Real Estate: North-South Location Biases Housing Preference". Social Psychological and Personality Science 2 (5): 547. doi:10.1177/1948550611401042. 
  3. ^ "Worth a thousand worlds". Geek Trivia (TechRepublic). 2005-12-06. Archived from the original on 2012-06-29. Retrieved 2007-06-23. 
  4. ^ Monmonier, Mark (2004). Rhumb Lines and Map Wars: A Social History of the Mercator Projection p. 169. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  5. ^ "NZ wizard seeks charms of normal life". BBC News (London: BBC). 24 August 2002. Retrieved 23 October 2015. He is best known for his rain dances and upside down map, which puts New Zealand at the top of the world. 

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