It seems that the fantasy we choose to so often escape with these days was something early man was trying to escape from. An ancient map – one of the largest known early maps of the world – was recently reconstructed using modern technology, and it reveals some very interesting inclusions our current maps might not include, like unicorns, merman, and other mythical creatures.
The map was originally created by 16th-century cartographer Urbano Monte. It was originally made out of 60 hand-created atlas pages that collecter David Rumsey – along with his nephew – have scanned and recreated the book into the world map it was originally intended to be. While the early map doesn’t match up exactly with our current interpretation of the Earth, it’s accuracies are impressive for an early cartographer. The video below places those pages into a global structure a la Google Earth, whereas the actual map was assembled on a 10-foot by 10-foot wood planisphere, according to directions left over from Monte.
The top-down design of the map was rare to see back in the day – circa 1587 – but was an important design for the cartographer to focus on. “Monte wanted to show the entire earth as close as possible to a three-dimensional sphere using a two-dimensional surface,” Rumsey explained on his website. “His projection does just that, notwithstanding the distortions around the south pole.”
Monte also included not only two hand-drawn portraits of himself – presumably the different ages the cartographer was upon the various completion times of the map – but also portraits of the various rulers of the world at the time, which you can check out below:
Even these portions of the map contain drawings of odd creatures, something apparent when examing the map a little closer. Different areas of the map feature these mythical creatures, including the oceans with merman, monsters, giant birds, and possible ocean gods, and land masses like Siberia which had unicorns, lizard men, and devils roaming freely. We have to wonder if Monte included these designs due to stories he had heard from the various people he visited across the world, or if they were first hand accounts from the cartographer, who seemed to have an eye for capturing the world around him. You can check out more of these mythical creatures as well as various sections of the original atlas pages below:
The finished map was also then georeferenced and laid out properly for comparison, which showcases some of the accuracies of the map, while also revealing some of the exaggerated areas like Antartica, which you can check out in more detail at the link.
There’s always been the discussion over whether or not some of these mythological creatures ever existed, despite the absence of scientific confirmation, but as this map shows, these stories came from somewhere. Could the Earth have been home to more outlandish creatures than we can even imagine, or was Monte merely another storyteller spreading legends? We’ll leave it up to you (and science?) to decide.
Images: David Rumsey