Maps, Part I: Defining and Explaining our Past, Present and Future

800px-FraMauroDetailedMapHistory can be difficult to understand. The way it is told and interpreted depends on the point of view of a person or a culture, the time period from which it is being viewed and a thousand other variables that affect what is actually perceived as the truth of history. One of the greatest tools for anyone wanting to learn more about the past is often overlooked. Maps do more than tell us how to get where we’re going. Maps give us visual representations of the past. They can illustrate growth and movement of civilizations, the spread of various cultures, patterns that repeat themselves throughout time and so much more. Today we’re bringing you some fantastic resources that will help to illuminate the past and explain it in ways you may never have considered. These are great sites to use on your own or in the classroom.

First, let’s take a quick look at the history of map-making. Cartography, the art and science of making maps, is ancient. The earliest known evidence of maps is found on Babylonian clay tablets from around 2300 BCE.[1] Many civilizations such as the Egyptians and Greeks used maps regularly to impose order on their world. The Chinese drew maps as far back as the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE). In fact, it is said that the Greek philosopher Anaximander (c. 610-546 BCE) was the first to create a map of the known world.[2]

Oldest world map babylonian

Babylonian clay tablet circa 2300 BCE. Oldest known map.

Maps in the ancient world were often as much a work of art and treasured status symbol to the owner as they were an actual reference document.[3] They were extremely time-consuming to make and took considerable skill. Orientation was not a concern, but artistic illustrations were valued. As the Greeks and then the Romans continued to study and advance cartography, the practice began to look more like what we see in our modern maps. Marinus of Tyre (ca. 70-130 CE) was a Phoenician geographer, cartographer and mathematician credited as founding mathematical geography.[4] His work heavily influenced Claudius Ptolemy, who in 150 CE published Geographia, a treatise filled with maps of the world that included latitudinal and longitudinal lines. Ptolemy had imposed mathematical rules on cartography and therefore had revolutionized geographic thinking.[5] Indeed, Geographia was the most famous classical map of the world, unsurpassed for almost 1500 years.”[6]

Map-making continued to make significant jumps forward throughout the Renaissance and into the modern age. As new areas of the world were discovered and mapped, our understanding of the globe and its position in the heavens broadened along with practice of map-making. Today, maps are not simply made to chart the world around us, but to understand that world and its people.

Maps That Help Explain Our World and Its Past

*Most, but not all, of these collections are provided by, a great resource for map lists.

Don’t miss Maps, Part 2: Defining and Explaining our Past, Present and Future as we explore how space exploration has expanded the boundaries of human perception and understanding

[1] Aber, J. (n.d.). History of maps and cartography. Retrieved November 14, 2014, from

[2] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2014, from

[3] History of Mapping. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2014, from

[4] Marinus of Tyre, Phoenicia, and Evolution of Ancient Maps. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2014, from

[5] Ibid.

[6] Marinus of Tyre, Phoenicia, and Evolution of Ancient Maps. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2014, from

[7] Danforth, N. (2014, July 31). 15 Maps That Don’t Explain the Middle East at All. Retrieved November 14, 2014

[8] Blanding, M. (n.d.). The 10 Most Important Maps in U.S. History. Retrieved November 14, 2014

KIDS’ BLOG! Do You Love Being Fashionable? So Did Our Ancient Ancestors!

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /, Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /, Image courtesy of artur84 /

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic, artur84 /

Update! This post was originally published on September 27, 2013. In the post below we bring you fascinating information about an ancient sweater found last year in Norway that is remarkably similar to some of the fashions we wear today. It is so important for us to study ancient clothing and textiles like the Norwegian sweater because the information we learn gives us clues to how our ancestors lived and it teaches us that we have a lot in common with those who came before us. Recently, another exciting discovery about ancient clothing was made on the island of Cyprus at the archaeological site of Erimi-Laonin tou Porakou. A workshop complex was excavated which appears to have been used for “textiles and dyeing.”[1]

It said the analysis of botanical remains together with the evidence for working installations such as basins and channels, and an assemblage of objects such as spindle whorls and pouring vessels strengthened the hypothesis that weaving and textile dying were the main activities performed in the complex.[2]

The site dates back to the Middle Bronze Age (2200-1570 BCE) and continues to be studied as it reveals a wealth of information about the people who lived there. It is clear from the existence of the workshop and from the intricacy of its construction that the people who lived and worked in the area were skilled at making clothing and they obviously took some interest in creating different colors and patterns. Without the help of our modern technology, they made unique fabrics using ancient techniques and manipulating their environment. Specifically, they carved the natural limestone top mound bedrock into a system of basins and channels to suit their needs as they worked.[3]

Read the rest of the article below to learn more about ancient fashion and don’t miss the fun and educational activities at the end of the post, including a Clothing Scavenger Hunt!


Most kids and teens love being in style—do you?  When you see the newest fashions advertised on TV or on the Internet, do you want to be the first to have them?  And you know that your friends will probably want the same shirt, sweater or jogging shoes for themselves, except maybe in a different color.

Believe it or not, our ancient ancestors were style-conscious, too.  How do we know that?  Researchers in Norway exploring a hunting area on the Lendbreen Glacier found a wool sweater that was made sometime between 230 and 390 CE. [4] They identified it as a boat neck sweater used to keep warm against the freezing temperatures of Norway’s cold season.  It has the shape of a tunic (reaches to mid-thigh with long sleeves and no buttons) so it had to be pulled over the head.

Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, Marianne Vedeler

Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, Marianne Vedeler

But you know what’s really interesting? The sweater has artistic stitching and design.  Who would imagine that people living so long ago even cared about how nice their clothes looked?  Weren’t they too busy working to find food and shelter?  Yes, those were the most important concerns of ancient people, but they also seemed to care about how they looked—just as we do today.

The researchers studying the boat neck sweater noticed some fascinating details.  It was woven using a diamond twill pattern. Also, it was made from two different fabrics and some of the threads were dark while others were light, forming an alternating pattern.  The way this sweater was sewn together makes us curious as to what these ancient people considered “fashionable.”

4th-century CE Germanic tunic found on Thorsberg moor

4th-century CE Germanic tunic found on Thorsberg moor

Another pullover sweater discovered in Germany and dating back to the 4th century (between 301 and 400 CE) also contains the diamond twill pattern,[5] suggesting that this pattern was trendy at the time.  And this pattern is still popular today. Your favorite jeans and other denim clothing have this exact same diamond twill weave.[6]

Because the threads of this sweater were woven so tightly, they formed a strong, durable fabric perfect for blocking the cold wind and protecting the wearer’s arms and body as he hunted in harsh territory.   These ancient sweaters were more like sturdy jackets than today’s typical soft sweaters.

One important difference between the sweater found in Norway and the sweaters we wear today is how it was cared for by its owner. The last time you got a hole in one of your shirts you probably went to the store to buy a new one. The hunter who owned this ancient sweater mended it twice using patches of fabric. It was obviously an important possession so we don’t understand yet why it was left behind in the mountains.

We still have a lot to learn from other pieces of clothing found at the site in Norway. Maybe we’ll find further proof that our ancient ancestors cared about fashion and style!


Clothing Scavenger Hunt

Take a careful look at the diamond twill pattern examples below.  Now go through the clothes in your closet and see if you can find any other pieces of clothing that have this ancient weave.  *Remember, the weave may be very tiny and hard to spot, so look very closely.

Learn to Weave

Watch the video below with your parents and learn how to weave on a simple loom.


1. Ancient textile and dyeing workshops excavated in Erimi. (n.d.). Retrieved November 9, 2014.

2. Ibid.

3. EXCAVATION. (n.d.). Retrieved November 9, 2014, from


5.  Twill Weave:  The second primary weave, twill, shows a diagonal design made by causing weft threads to interlace two to four warp threads, moving a step to right or left on each pick and capable of variations, such as herringbone and corkscrew designs. Noted for their firm, close weave, twill fabrics include gabardine, serge, drill, and denim.


Bon Appetit Wednesday: Celebrating Germany’s National Soup Day!

soup over fireIt’s National Soup Day in Germany. Time to break out your best potato, cabbage or lentil soup, cozy up to a toasty fire and warm your bones. But of course, soup isn’t just appreciated in Germany. It’s a dish enjoyed all over the world in thousands of variations. And it has been a food staple in many ancient civilizations. In honor of Germany’s holiday we’re bringing you a recipe for hearty Kartoffelsuppe (German Potato Soup) and offering a brief ancient history of soup. So sit back, grab a spoon and enjoy! Continue reading

Saving the Past With 3D Printing: An Interview with Dr. Bernard Means, Director of the Virtual Curation Laboratory

Bernard Means

Click to view the video interview or scroll down to view it on this page.

In this June 2014 video interview AntiquityNOW spoke with Bernard Means, PhD., who heads up the Virtual Curation Laboratory and is an Instructor of Anthropology and Advisor for the Virtual Archaeology Scanning Team (VAST) at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. He discusses what archaeologists are doing to document information and why 3D technology holds a unique place in preservation efforts. In this wide-ranging and lively interview you’ll learn how 3D printing can help preserve ancient sites in areas of conflict and the amazing possibilities afforded in bringing the past alive to teachers, students and those who treasure our global heritage. Continue reading

Strata: Portraits of Humanity, Episode 1, “Sailing Canoe”

StrataImage-webWe are pleased to bring you “Sailing Canoe,” the first documentary from our partner Archaeological Legacy Institute’s new series, Strata:  Portraits of Humanity. This monthly half-hour video series is available online and on select cable channels. Strata is a showcase for unique and diverse stories about the world’s cultural heritage. Stories come from across the globe with segments produced by Archaeological Legacy Institute and dozens of producer and distributor partners around the world. Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Seaweed for Thanksgiving?

seaweedIn the past we’ve discussed several ancient superfoods including quinoa, amaranth, honey and even the adzuki bean. Today, we add one more to the list—seaweed, an ancient food from the sea that packs a punch nutritionally, but is often unappreciated by the uninitiated. Not everyone loves seaweed, but maybe they should! Today’s recipe, Carrots with Arame, is an unexpected pairing that will help you bring seaweed to the Thanksgiving table. But first, let’s make sure you can explain to your guests the history behind your curious contribution to the holiday feast. Continue reading

King Tut Controversy: The Controversial Portrait of a Boy King

AN ForumZahi HawassRecently Zahi Hawass, prominent Egyptian archaeologist, spoke out against a high profile television program called Tutankamun: The Truth Uncovered produced for the BBC and Smithsonian Channel, saying it “reveals lies, not the truth.”[1] He points out that the reconstruction of the boy king’s face is completely distorted and not based on scientific evidence and that the characterization of his hips as “feminine” is also incorrect and not based in fact. Continue reading

Archaeological Legacy Institute Launches New Video Series and AntiquityNOW Partners in Curricula Design

AN News GreyArchaeological Legacy Institute, a partner of AntiquityNOW, is producing a new video series available online and on select cable channels. Strata: Portraits of Humanity is a monthly half-hour showcase for unique and diverse stories about the world’s cultural heritage. Stories come from across the globe with segments produced by Archaeological Legacy Institute and dozens of producer and distributor partners around the world.

AntiquityNOW will be developing curriculum for each show. The goal of this project is to introduce young people to various ancient and indigenous cultures and spark their thinking about how societies try to reconcile their traditions in the face of encroaching modernity.

AntiquityNOW and Archaeological Legacy Institute also co-sponsor LegacyQuest, an international film and video festival for children 12-15 years of age.

The first Strata show is “Sailing Canoe,” a new film by Adam Thompson following the efforts of people across Micronesia to re-learn the art of sailing canoes.  It traces the connections of people from Guam and Rota to Yap and the outer islands of Micronesia that once were connected by long-distance canoe voyages.  Modern development has affected each island differently and each struggles in its own way to maintain its ancient heritage.  From the most urbanized islands to the most remote and traditional, the art of sailing canoes survives through the efforts of a few knowledgeable people.

Shows are available on Archaeological Legacy Institute’s nonprofit streaming-media Web site, The Archaeology Channel, as well as on cable TV in cities across the United States.  Strata program details can be found at  The growing list of 26 cable TV stations carrying the show soon will be posted at The Archaeology Channel.  They include placement in the local on-demand menu of Comcast cable in Oregon and Washington.

KIDS’ BLOG! Blowing Their Tops: The Destructive History and Amazing Science of Volcanoes

Lava flow from Mount Kilauea. Image credit: Adrian Glover

Lava flow from Mount Kilauea. Image credit: Adrian Glover

UPDATE! This post was originally published on September 3rd, 2013. Right now an ancient volcano in Hawaii is causing a lot of trouble for residents. The Kilauea Volcano, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, is actually its youngest volcano, but that doesn’t mean it’s a baby by any stretch of the imagination. It is over 300,000 years old and has been constantly active since prehistoric times. It is one of the world’s most active volcanos and features prominently in many Polynesian legends, including the story of Pele, a volcanic goddess who is said to live in the Kilauea crater.[1] There is even archaeological evidence of the eruptions that have taken place since antiquity. Footprints frozen in time leave reminders of those who have lost their lives to this powerful force of nature.[2] Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Happy National Doughnut Day

downloadHappy National Doughnut Day! Today we celebrate those sweet wheels of deliciousness that pop up in every flavor imaginable. We’re bringing you a fall doughnut recipe that you’ll want to drop everything for and try immediately. Nothing says autumn goodness like Apple Cider Doughnuts. First, let’s find out how long we’ve been enjoying these popular pastries. Continue reading