Geography and cartography in medieval Islam

Medieval Islamic 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 "Balkhi school"), and Abu Rayhan Biruni.

Islamic cartographers inherited Ptolemy's Almagest and Geography in the 9th century. These works stimulated an interest in geography (particularly gazetteers) but were not slavishly followed.[2] Instead, Arabian and Persian cartography followed Al-Khwārizmī in adopting a rectangular projection, shifting Ptolemy's Prime Meridian several degrees eastward, and modifying many of Ptolemy's geographical coördinates.

Having received Greek writings directly and without Latin intermediation, Arabian and Persian geographers made no use of European-style T-O maps.[2]

Muslim scientists made many of their own contributions to geography and the earth sciences. In the 11th century, the Uyghur scholar Mahmud al-Kashgari was the first to draw an ethnographic map of the Turkic peoples of Central Asia.


These medieval developments influenced Chinese geography under the Mongol Empire.[3] They also provided the underpinnings of the cartographic work of the Ottoman cartographer Piri Reis.


See also

Notes and references

    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. 1 2 Edson & Savage-Smith 2004, pp. 61–63.
    3. (Miya 2006; Miya 2007)
    • Alavi, S. M. Ziauddin (1965), Arab geography in the ninth and tenth centuries, Aligarh: Aligarh University Press
    • Edson, Evelyn; Savage-Smith, Emilie (2004). Savage-Smith, Emilie, ed. Medieval Views of the Cosmos. Oxford: Bodleian Library. ISBN 978-1-85124-184-2. 
    • King, David A. (1983), "The Astronomy of the Mamluks", Isis, 74 (4): 531–555, doi:10.1086/353360 
    • King, David A. (2002), "A Vetustissimus Arabic Text on the Quadrans Vetus", Journal for the History of Astronomy, 33: 237–255 
    • King, David A. (December 2003), "14th-Century England or 9th-Century Baghdad? New Insights on the Elusive Astronomical Instrument Called Navicula de Venetiis", Centaurus, 45 (1-4): 204–226, doi:10.1111/j.1600-0498.2003.450117.x 
    • King, David A. (2005), In Synchrony with the Heavens, Studies in Astronomical Timekeeping and Instrumentation in Medieval Islamic Civilization: Instruments of Mass Calculation, Brill Publishers, ISBN 90-04-14188-X 
    • McGrail, Sean (2004), Boats of the World, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-927186-0 
    • Mott, Lawrence V. (May 1991), The Development of the Rudder, A.D. 100-1337: A Technological Tale, Thesis, Texas A&M University
    • Rashed, Roshdi; Morelon, Régis (1996), Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science, 1 & 3, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-12410-7 
    • Sezgin, Fuat (2000), Geschichte Des Arabischen Schrifttums XXII: Mathematische Geographie und Kartographie im Islam und ihr Fortleben im Abendland, Historische Darstellung, Teil 13 (in German), Frankfurt am Main 

    External links

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