The differences between Ibn Hawqal’s KMMS world map and my modern Google map are almost immeasurable. More than millennium separating their creation dates, my modern Google map and Hawqal’s KMMS map could not be more different. The first and probably most obvious difference is the style of illustration. The Google map is a more accurate representation of the land. It has details regarding the terrain, tan indicating hot deserts, dark green indicating mountains, and white for areas covered by snow. Bodies of water drawn to size, relative to one another, with each bend in a river noted. The Hawqal map uses geometric shapes and minimal color. The bodies of water are rough estimates if anything. Seas, Gulfs, and Oceans grouped together because their distinction was not important. Their purpose was to indicate that there was water over in that direction, not to tell a reader what river they are crossing. Although rivers were dark blue, seas and oceans were a green-blue color. The land was not denoted with any color. This speaks to the purpose of the Hawqal map to not be used for exact navigation, but to be paired with a manuscript describing the distances and cities on the map. Another noticeable difference is the orientation of the maps. The Google map place North at the top and South at the bottom. The Ibn Hawqal map orients oppositely. The Google map also features the entire world if you were to scroll further in any direction. The Hawqal map, features just the reaches of the Muslim world, then drawn around is an “encompassing sea.” This was not necessarily to indicate the end of land in the world, just simply the end of knowledge of it. How the maps portray a nation or country’s borders is another significant difference between the two maps. While the Google map is exact and precise, the Hawqal map remains geometric. The Hawqal map draws out rectangular like boxes with the nations written in Arabic inside them, no specific cities are labeled. Medieval cultures understood the world differently than modern day cultures in that they understood people to be separated by cultural nations rather than borders. Borders were irrelevant to them if the people did not consider themselves of that nation.
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