25 Ancient Maps That Make Modern Ones Look Very Boring

Published October 13, 2015
Updated October 14, 2015

Ancient Maps Heart Earth

Maps weren’t always sourced from the likes of Google or Apple. In fact, maps weren’t even always printed on paper. Whether etched into brass, carved into tomb ceilings, or drawn onto deerskins, ancient maps show us not merely how different our ancestors’ technology and knowledge were, but how differently they saw the world.

Sure, the ancients knew little or nothing of the New World and thought there was a massive southern continent there to balance out the lands of the north. And sure, even if the ancients were aware of the whole globe, they didn’t have the tools to accurately survey it. But the differences between modern maps and ancient maps are far deeper than that.

Today, maps are, for the most part, strictly representational: they depict the earth as it is in factually accurate geopolitical terms. But as recently as a few hundred years ago, maps were often more loosely expressive, informed to a greater extent by spirituality and art than by science.

With these 25 ancient maps, look back on a time when many may have thought the world was flat, but the maps, in every sense of the word, were not.


Ancient Maps Star Fresco
Ancient Maps Fra Mauro
Ancient Maps Yorkshire Peat
Ancient Maps Persian Sky
25 Ancient Maps That Make Modern Ones Look Very Boring
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All maps sourced from The University of Chicago's History of Cartography.


For more illuminating maps, check out our collection of U.S. census maps to upend your assumptions about our country as well as these 33 maps that explain the U.S. better than any textbook.

All That's Interesting
All That's Interesting is a Brooklyn-based digital publisher that seeks out the stories to illuminate the past, present, and future.