Despite the glaring differences between the modern, online-created map being oriented North, and the Medieval hand-drawn Psalter Map being oriented East, the biggest difference between the two that I noticed was a lack of temporal/spatial awareness on the Psalter World Map. Once I plotted the points from the Modern Map onto the Psalter World Map, I realized that it was inaccurate in terms of spatial awareness. For example, on the Psalter Map, the entire peninsula of modern-day Italy is especially cramped and walled off by the Alps. This made me plotting Bologna, Venice, and Rome seem in much closer proximity than when I was plotting them online through ArcGIS. I also thought this was interesting as I thought it might suggest how medieval travelers saw the Alps as a very treacherous natural boundary to cross. On the same note, England was also exceedingly cramped, making my plots for Norwich and Yarmouth seem way too close to the spot where London was already marked on the map. The Psalter World Map is also incredibly small and, while very detailed for its size, this presents two problems when trying somewhat accurately plot modern points: 1) When trying to plot a city on such a small and cramped map, you end up accidentally covering other markers. This was an issue not encountered when working with the online ArcGIS system, because through internet mapping agents, you are able to pinpoint with startling accuracy and make the points as small as needed so that you do not overlap other important information. 2) Since the Psalter World Map only has space for the things it deems most important, it is not very detailed. I could not find Venice, Bologna, Norwich, Yarmouth, Ramleh, or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as there simply is not room to detail every specific city or site pilgrims may pass through. In this way, navigating with the Psalter Map is very much a guessing game, speaking to the struggle medieval travelers had when trying to navigate from place to place. This was strikingly different from navigating ArcGIS, as all I had to do was enter the city or even a specific building or address, and it would take me to its exact location. There was no need to guess or even think about it as much.
Another large difference I noticed is that just as we can deduce how ruling cultures think about the world through map orientation (modern day maps are oriented North, placing more value on Europe and the United States as they are at the ‘top’ and near the center. Medieval maps are centered towards the ‘East’ where Paradise is meant to be, and Jerusalem is at the center), one can also deduce from medieval maps what traveling members of society cared about most based on how large a certain city or point is. This is exceedingly evident with the Psalter World Map’s placement of Jerusalem. Not only is is placed in the center, as it is in most T-O maps, which signifies it as the heart of the world and a treasured place around which Christ is said to have lived and died, but Jerusalem is HUGE compared to other cities and is circled, like a bulls-eye. The sheer size of how the city is portrayed screams that in the Middle Ages Jerusalem was considered a VERY important place, and details just how central it was to religious pilgrimage. The fact that the city is circled like a bulls-eye makes it appear the Jerusalem is the “end point” despite paradise being far up to the East.
The template used is that of the World Psalter Map. You can find the original image here. The below image may appear blurry but upon clicking and magnifying, becomes clear. Edits courtesy of 3D Paint software.
Yellow/Gold= Religious Sites
Blue= Port Cities
- Norwich, England
- Yarmouth, England
- Zierikzee, Netherlands
- Constanz, Germany
- Bologna, Italy
- Venice, Italy
- Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
- River Jordan, modern-day Israel
- Venice, Italy
- Rome, Italy
Though the Tabula Rogerianais incredibly accurate for the time period, mapping ibn Fadlan’s journey onto it has significantly altered the visual representation of his journey. On the modern map, ibn Fadlan’s path takes him much further North that it does East. His journey takes an abrupt turn at Bukhara where the main direction of travel transition from East to North. In the medieval map, however, ibn Fadlan’s journey takes him farther East than it does North, completely altering the perspective of the viewer as to which direction was more applicable. On the medieval map, ibn Fadlan’s travels are more aptly described as his travels East, whereas on the modern map, he mostly traveled North.
As such, in the medieval map, the Caspian Sea, or bahr al hozaras it is labeled on the Tabula Rogeriana, appears to be a significantly more relevant landmark for ibn Fadlan as his journey appears to more closely circumvent the body of water. Ibn Fadlan appears far closer to the Caspian Sea at the Northern most point of his travels, having passed more or less around the circumference of the Caspian Sea. In the modern map, however, the Caspian Sea has no impact on his actual path and is much further West and South of his journey than it appears in the medieval map.
Finally, the proper South-up orientation of the Tabula Rogerianadepicts ibn Fadlan’s travels as going down around the Caspian Sea instead of up into the treacherous mountains and rivers of what is now called Russia, relatively close to Moscow. Not only does this shift the visualization of his journey, but the end of the Northern side of the medieval map cuts off the top of that northern Eurasian landmass, about halfway through what is today’s Russia. Ibn Fadlan’s final destination, Bulghar, is incredibly close to this northern edge of the map, making it appear as though he traveled nearly to the most northern, or bottom, edge of the world. This greatly contrasts with the modern map, which reveals that he made it just about half way through Russia at the western edge, far from the Barents Sea. As such, ibn Fadlan’s journey appears to take him to the edge of the known world on the Tabula Rogeriana, while on the modern map, his travels take him significantly north, but well within the confines of the Eurasian landmass.
When comparing both versions of the map, I found it interesting that it was much easier to pinpoint the different locations on the modern map, than it was on the medieval map. To be more specific, I believed that by using the Tabula Rogeriana map, I would be able to find the locations that Ibn Fadlan traveled to, since it is closer to the map he would have used during his travels. Because Fadlan was a well-known Muslim traveler, the Rogeriana map would be something he might find useful during his travels. This is because it was very detailed, and highlighted many major cities from different countries. It was also created by a Muslim geographer, and had certain middle-eastern places as the center of the map, as well as the south being in the direction of the north in modern day maps. Therefore, when looking up the different locations that Fadlan traveled to, I believed it would easily coincide with the major cities and points indicated on the Rogeriana. However, when trying to find the different cities, it was difficult to connect them. For instance, some of the names of the different locations were not spelled the same way, or they were not located around the same area as they would be on the modern map. However, when doing it on the modern map, it was much easier to find the different places he traveled to, since they were in the same locations, and had some of the same names, just different variations. As I compared the two side by side, the direction in which Fadlan traveled did not match up, although I tried to map them as closely together as possible. For the modern map, the direction of his travels seem to be consistent, whereas with the medieval map, it goes a bit out of order.