Cartography of Palestine

The cartography of the region of Palestine prior to modern surveying techniques is focused on a geographic region in Western Asia usually considered to include modern Israel (often excluding the Negev), the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and in some definitions, parts of western Jordan.

The cartography of the region of Palestine, also known as cartography of the Holy Land and cartography of the Land of Israel, is the creation, editing, processing and printing of maps of the region of Palestine from ancient times until the rise of modern surveying techniques. For several centuries during the Middle Ages it was the most prominent subject in all of cartography,[1] and it has been described as an "obsessive subject of map art".[2]

The history of the mapping of Palestine is dominated by two cartographic traditions: the biblical school and the classical school.[3] The earliest surviving maps of the biblical tradition derive from the attempts of the early Church Fathers to identify and illustrate the primary locations mentioned in the Bible, and to provide maps for Christian pilgrimage.[3] The earliest surviving maps of the classical tradition derive from the scientific and historical works of the Greco-Roman world.[3] Many Graeco-Roman geographers described the Palestine region in their writings; however, there are no surviving pre-modern originals or copies of these maps – illustrations today of maps according to geographers such as Hecataeus, Herodotus or Eratosthenes are modern reconstructions. The earliest surviving classical maps of the region are Byzantine versions of Ptolemy's 4th Asia map.[4][5] Cartographic history of Palestine thus begins with Ptolemy, whose work was based on that of the local geographer Marinus of Tyre; the European rediscovery of Ptolemy's works in the 1400s ended the domination of the biblical tradition.[6]

The first lists of maps of the region were made in the late 19th century, by Titus Tobler in his 1867 Geographical Bibliography of Palestine and subsequently by Reinhold Röhricht in his 1890 Geographical Library of Palestine.[7][8] In a series of articles in the Journal of the German Association for the Study of Palestine between 1891 and 1895, Röhricht presented the first detailed analysis of maps of the region in the middle- and the late Middle Ages.[7][9] They were followed in 1939-40 by Hans Fischer's History of the Cartography of Palestine.[10] The article lists maps that progressed the cartography of region before the rise of modern surveying techniques, showing how mapmaking and surveying improved and helped outsiders to better understand the geography of the area. Imaginary maps and copies of existing maps are excluded.

Notable maps of Palestine

Early maps (2nd–10th centuries)

Date Title Cartographer Comments Region name given Image
150 Ptolemy's 4th Asia map Ptolemy The earliest known copy, pictured here, is the Codex Vaticanus Urbinas Graecus 82, thought to be from a manuscript of Ptolemy's Geography assembled by Maximus Planudes in Constantinople c. 1300. Ptolemy's map is considered the "prototype delineation" of the region.[3] The large red letters in the center say in Greek: Παλαιστινης or Palaistinis. A detailed map of Palestine
385 Jerome map Jerome and Eusebius The earliest known copy is from 1150,[11] the "Tournai map of Asia", shown here. The map comes from a manuscript of Jerome's De situ et nominibus locorum Hebraeorum, which Jerome states is a copy of Eusebius's Onomasticon.[11] Jerome also explains that Eusebius composed a map which showed the divisions of the Twelve Tribes; no copy of this division has survived.[11] no regional name shown A detailed map of Palestine from the century
410 Notitia Dignitatum unknown Notitia Dignitatum of c. 410 AD showing Dux Palestinae,[12] a military region of the Byzantine Empire.[13] This 1436 manuscript by Peronet Lamy is the earliest known copy to survive complete; it was modelled after the lost "Codex Spirensis".[14] Dux Palastinae A detailed map of Palestine from the century
450 Tabula Peutingeriana unknown Thought to be the only surviving map of the Roman cursus publicus, the state-run road network; the surviving map was created by a monk in Colmar in eastern France in 1265, is named after German antiquarian Konrad Peutinger, and is conserved at the Austrian National Library in Vienna.[15] no regional name shown A detailed map of Palestine from the 5th century
c.560–565 Madaba Map unknown The earliest map of Palestine surviving in its original form,[16][17] and the oldest known geographic floor mosaic in art history. The mosaic was discovered in 1884, but no research was carried out until 1896.[18][19] It has been heavily used for the localisation and verification of sites in Byzantine Palaestina Prima. It is the earliest surviving map showing the divisions of the Twelve Tribes.[20] Labels Greek: οροι Αιγυπτου και Παλαιστινης, oroi Aigyptou kai Palaistinis, the "border of Egypt and Palestine". The 6th century mosaic of Jerusalem
776 Beatus map Beatus of Liébana The first medieval Christian world map of relevance to the cartography of Palestine.[21] This copy from 1060 is thought to be the closest to the original out the 14 surviving manuscripts.[21] no regional name shown A detailed map of Palestine from the 8th century
952 Istakhri map Istakhri Drawn in 952 AD, copy from 1298.[22] no regional name shown A detailed map of Palestine from the 10th century
995 Cotton map unknown Known as the "Anglo-Saxon" world map. The earliest known map of the world (rather than just the region) showing the divisions of the Twelve Tribes. Thought to be based on the map of Orosius, which is no longer extant.[23] no regional name shown A detailed map of Palestine from the 10th century

Crusader maps (12th–14th centuries)

Date Title Cartographer Comments Region name given Image
1154 Tabula Rogeriana Muhammad al-Idrisi The Tabula Rogeriana was created in 1154AD; copy from 1533.[24] The middle of the right hand page label Arabic: فلسطين‎, romanizedFilasṭīn, lit.'Palestine' A detailed map of Palestine from the 12th century
1100s Ashburnham Libri map unknown Europe’s oldest surviving sheet map after the ninth-century Plan of Saint Gall.[25] no regional name shown A detailed map of Palestine from the 12th century
1100s Tournai map unknown 12th century copy of a map of Asia may which accompanied a manuscript of De situ et nominibus locorum Hebraeorum, a 4th-5th century work of Jerome.[26] no regional name shown A detailed map of Palestine from the 12th century
1250 Oxford Outremer map Matthew Paris Created in c.1250, thought to be by Matthew Paris[27] The Kishon River has the following text along it: Latin: Iste torrens q[ui] parvus est, dividit Siriam a palestinam, i[d est] terram sactam q[ue] est versus austrum et palestinam que est versus aquilonem, lit.'This river, which is small, divides Syria from Palestine, that is, the Holy Land, which is to the south, and Palestine, which is to the North.' A detailed map of Palestine from the 13th century
1300 Earliest Burchard map Burchard of Mount Sion Considered to be the oldest known Burchard map.[28][29] no regional name shown A detailed map of Palestine from the 14th century
1300s Later Burchard map Burchard of Mount Sion A later map attributed to Burchard.[30][29] no regional name shown A detailed map of Palestine from the 14th century
1321 Sanudo-Vesconte map Pietro Vesconte Described by Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld as "the first non-Ptolemaic map of a definite country".[31] Published in Liber Secretorum Fidelium Crucis, a work intended to rekindle the spirit of the crusades. Considered the "first 'modern map' of Palestine" and "served as the basis for most maps of 'Modern Palestine'" throughout the following centuries.[32] Terra Sancta A detailed map of Palestine from the 14th century

Notable 15th–18th century maps

Date Title Cartographer Comments Region name given Image
1459 Fra Mauro map Fra Mauro 1459 world map, considered the most accurate of its age. Fra Mauro had become familiar with the Near East in his travels as s soldier.[33] Shows the region of "Palestina" A detailed map of Palestine from the century
1475 Berlinghieri map Francesco Berlinghieri Published in the Rudimentum Novitorium it was a version of Ptolemy's map, brought up to date.[34] Together with three updated maps of European countries, Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld described it as the "first germ of modern cartography"[31] Named "Palestina Moderna et Terra Sancta" (Modern Palestine and the Holy Land) A detailed map of Palestine from the 15th century
1532 Ziegler map Jacob Ziegler 1532 map by Jacob Ziegler[35][36] The map is important to the development of the cartography of Palestine as it represents an early synthesis of multiple sources, including Burchard of Mount Sion, Sanuto, Ptolemy, Strabo, Pliny the Elder, the Antonine Itinerary, Jerome and Eusebius.[37] "Universalis Palaestinae, continens superiores partuculares tabulas"[38] A detailed map of Palestine from the century
1537 Mercator map Gerardus Mercator 1537 map by Gerardus Mercator, three decades before he published his famous Mercator projection. This map was Mercator's first published map, and was based on the map of Jacob Ziegler.[35] The caption "Candido lectori s[alus]. Palestinam hanc..." translates as: "Fair reader, greeting! We have drawn this map of Palestine, and the Hebrews' route into it from Egypt through the stony regions of Arabia"[39] A detailed map of Palestine from the century
1570 Ortelius map Abraham Ortelius 1570 map in Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. [40] Ortelius's depiction of a biblical Palestine in his otherwise contemporary atlas has been criticized; Matari described it as an act "loaded with theological, eschatological, and, ultimately, para-colonial Restorationism".[41] Captioned "Palaestinae Sive Totius Terrae Promissionis Nova Descriptio" ("Palestine, the whole of the Promised Land, a new description") A detailed map of Palestine from the century
1590 van Adrichem map Christian van Adrichem van Adrichem was a Dutch priest; his maps were published in his Theatrum Terrae Sanctae et Biblicarum Historiarum. [42] Terra Promissionis A detailed map of Palestine from the century
1620 Zaddik map Jacob ben Abraham Zaddiq A translation into Hebrew of van Adrichem's 1590 map, it is the oldest known printed map in Hebrew.[43] The first line of the framed colophon includes the description: Hebrew: ציור מצב ארצות כנען‎, lit.'A Drawing of the Situation of the Lands of Canaan' A detailed map of Palestine from the century
1648–1657 Celebi map Kâtip Çelebi This 1732 copy of the map by Ottoman geographer Kâtip Çelebi (1609–57) is from the first printed atlas in the Ottoman Empire, and represented the first detailed mapping of the Asian provinces of the empire.[44] Shows the term ارض فلسطين ("Land of Palestine") extending vertically down the length of the Jordan River. A detailed map of Palestine from the 17th century
1683 Mallet map Alain Manesson Mallet Map of Syrie Moderne (1683) from Description De l'Universe by Alain Manesson Mallet[45] Iudae and Palestine A detailed map of Palestine from the century
1720 Weigel map Christoph Weigel From a map of Arabia entitled Arabiae Veteris Typus, published in 1720.[46] Palaestina A detailed map of Palestine from the century
1736 Moll map Herman Moll Published 1736 in his Atlas Minor.[47] Palestina A detailed map of Palestine from the century
1794 d'Anville map Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville Published 1794, almost thirty years after his 1767 map of Biblical Palestine.[48][49] Palestina A detailed map of Palestine from the century

Notable 19th century maps

Date Title Cartographer Comments Region name given Image
1799 Carte de l'Égypte (Description de l'Égypte) Pierre Jacotin Originally prepared during the French campaign in Egypt and Syria; 47 sheets were prepared, with the Palestine area being covered by sheets 43-47. The first triangulation-based map of Palestine, it was used as the basis for many most maps of the region until the PEF Survey in the 1870s.[50][51] It is considered flawed, primarily since it included a significant number of incorrect or imagined details, which had been “added to the map ad libitum where the French had not been able to survey.”[51] Palestine A detailed map of Palestine from the century
1803 Cedid Atlas Müderris Abdurrahman Efendii The first modern printed atlas in the Ottoman Empire, part of the Nizam-I Cedid reforms of Sultan Selim III, showing Ottoman Syria in the 1803.[44] Considered to be based on the d'Anville 1794 map (published in William Faden's General Atlas), it contained important adaptations to represent Ottoman geographic representations of the provinces.[44] Shows the term "ارض فلاستان" ("Land of Palestine") in large script on the bottom left. A detailed map of Palestine from the century
1822 Burckhardt map Johann Ludwig Burckhardt Palestine, and the Holy Land A detailed map of Palestine from the century
1840 Royal Engineers map Charles Rochfort Scott The first British army survey, carried out during the Oriental Crisis of 1840. It represented the second modern, triangulation-based, attempt at surveying Palestine.[51] It was not published at the time; although a private printing for the British Foreign Office was produced in 1846, and it was used in the creation of Van de Velde's map.[51] none A detailed map of Palestine from the 19th century
1843 Hughes map William Hughes Shows the Ottoman administrative districts in detail, made for the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Hughes had been producing popular maps of Palestine for almost a decade, notably in his 1840 Illuminated Atlas of Scripture geography.[52] Palestine A detailed map of Palestine from the 19th century
1849 Lynch map William F. Lynch Prepared on behalf of the United States Hydrographic Office. Published in Narrative of the United States' Expedition to the River Jordan and the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea and River Jordan A detailed map of Palestine from the 19th century
1856 Kiepert map Heinrich Kiepert Published in 1856 to accompany the second edition of Biblical Researches in Palestine by Edward Robinson, known as the "Father of Biblical Geography",[53] Southern Palestine A detailed map of Palestine from the 19th century
1858 Van de Velde map Charles William Meredith van de Velde Published in 1858. One of the most accurate maps published prior to the PEF Survey.[54] The Holy Land A detailed map of Palestine from the 19th century
1870 Leves en Galilee Jean-Joseph Mieulet and Isidore Derrien A follow-up to a map of Lebanon. It was intended to be the first part of a complete coverage of Palestine, but the expedition was recalled to France at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. It was published in 1873.[55] Galilee A detailed map of Galilee from the 19th century
1872-1880 PEF Survey Charles Wilson and others Carried out by the Palestine Exploration Fund, with support from the War Office.[56] Represented the peak of the cartographic work in Palestine in the nineteenth century.[57] 26 sheets of "Western Palestine" and 1 sheet of "Eastern Palestine". A detailed map of Palestine from the 19th century

Modern cartography

Biblical / imaginary maps

See also


  1. ^ Laor 1986, p. XI quote: "Cartography in the Middle Ages was generally of poor quality, with the exception of the cartography of the Holy Land, which reached a peak both in quality and quantity. For several centuries, the Holy Land was the most important and prominent subject of mapmaking.
  2. ^ Wood 2010, p. 232: "In fact, the mapping of Palestine is a paradigm of the history of mapmaking; but since it’s also the object of counter-mapping and counter-counter-mapping, and an obsessive subject of map art, it makes a uniquely trenchant example around which to review the arguments of this book."
  3. ^ a b c d Nebenzahl 1986, p. 8.
  4. ^ Wilson, Nigel Guy (2006). "Cartography". Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece. Psychology Press. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-415-97334-2. As geographical knowledge improved, various writers recorded what they believed to be the spatial relationships of territories and peoples to each other, and it is from this information that many modern historical atlases present items such as the world according to Hecataeus or Herodotus or Eratosthenes: actual ancient versions of these maps do not survive (indeed, modern versions seem to originate in the 1883 volumes of Bunbury), although there do exist Byzantine versions of Ptolemy’s maps.
  5. ^ Leo Bagrow, “The Origin of Ptolemy's Geographia.” Geografiska Annaler, vol. 27, 1945, pp. 318–387. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/520071; p.331, “Hecataeus of Milet… Herodotus… Dicaearchus of Messina… Crates of Mallos… Hipparchus… Posidonius of Apamea… Marinus of Thyre… All these maps before Ptolemy have, naturally, not come down to us.”
  6. ^ Nebenzahl 1986, p. 8: "Cartography as we know it today begins with this spectacular map of the world at the time of Claudius Ptolemy. It sets the stage for the history of mapping the Holy Land... his work was to become the model for scientific cartography during the great revivals of mapmaking: the tenth-century Golden Age of Islam and the European Renaissance. The rediscovery of Ptolemy in the fifteenth century was particularly important for maps of the Holy Land; it ended the almost complete domination of mapmaking by Church dogma throughout the Middle Ages... Around AD 150 he produced his Geographia, the earliest known atlas of the world.".
  7. ^ a b Goren 2001, p. 98.
  8. ^ Tobler 1867, pp. 232–246: "Karten" and Röhricht 1890, pp. 598–662
  9. ^ Röhricht 1891, pp. 8–11, 87–92, 137–141; Röhricht 1892, pp. 34–39 and 185–188; and Röhricht 1895, pp. 173–182
  10. ^ Fischer 1939 and Fischer 1940
  11. ^ a b c Nebenzahl 1986, p. 18.
  12. ^ Röhricht 1890, p. 7.
  13. ^ Masalha 2019, p. 98.
  14. ^ Preciado 1989, p. 66.
  15. ^ Laor 1986, p. XI.
  16. ^ Nebenzahl 1986, p. 2: "The Madaba mosaic, the earliest surviving original map of the area and the first to show the Twelve Tribes of Israel"
  17. ^ North 1979, p. 85: "Certainly it is the oldest map of Palestine now existing in the form in which it was first produced"
  18. ^ Piccirillo, Michele (September 21, 1995). "A Centenary to be celebrated". Jordan Times. Franciscan Archaeology Institute. Retrieved 18 January 2019. It was only Abuna Kleofas Kikilides who realised the true significance, for the history of the region, that the map had while visiting Madaba in December 1896. A Franciscan friar of ltalian-Croatian origin born in Constantinople, Fr. Girolamo Golubovich, helped Abuna Kleofas to print a booklet in Greek about the map at the Franciscan printing press of Jerusalem. Immediately afterwards, the Revue Biblique published a long and detailed historic-geographic study of the map by the Dominican fathers M.J. Lagrange and H. Vincent after visiting the site themselves. At the same time. Father J. Germer-Durand of the Assumptionist Fathers published a photographic album with his own pictures of the map. In Paris, C. Clermont-Gannau, a well known oriental scholar, announced the discovery at the Académie des Sciences et belles Lettres.
  19. ^ Levy-Rubin & Rubin 1996, p. 352–353.
  20. ^ Nebenzahl 1986, p. 18a"The Madaba Mosaic is the earliest surviving map to show the tribal divisions, and its text is almost identical with the surviving Greek manuscript of Eusebius's Onomastikon"
  21. ^ a b Nebenzahl 1986, p. 26-27.
  22. ^ Tishby 2001, p. 128.
  23. ^ Nebenzahl 1986, p. 30-31.
  24. ^ Tishby 2001, p. 132.
  25. ^ Harvey 2012, p. 31-39.
  26. ^ Harvey 2012, p. 40-59.
  27. ^ Harvey 2012, p. 60-73.
  28. ^ Harvey 2012, p. 94-106.
  29. ^ a b Baumgärtner, Ingrid. "Burchard of Mount Sion and the Holy Land," Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art and Architecture 4, 1 (2013): 5-41. : "Burchard’s description, although little studied even today, is considered a key document that influenced the perception of Palestine in both text and image, in travel accounts and maps until far into the sixteenth century."
  30. ^ Harvey 2012, p. 128-140.
  31. ^ a b Nordenskiöld 1889, p. 51, 64.
  32. ^ Laor 1986, p. XII.
  33. ^ Masalha 2019, p. 189,191.
  34. ^ Laor 1986, p. 86-87.
  35. ^ a b Bartlett 2009, p. 191.
  36. ^ Nissen 1956, p. 45.
  37. ^ Bartlett 2009, p. 192-197.
  38. ^ Rubin 2018, p. 173, footnote 7.
  39. ^ Bartlett 2017, p. 52.
  40. ^ Tishby 2001, p. 94.
  41. ^ Matar 2011, p. 76.
  42. ^ Tishby 2001, p. 96.
  43. ^ Wajntraub & Wajntraub 1992, p. 45.
  44. ^ a b c Tamari 2017, pp. 27–29.
  45. ^ Laor 1986, p. 59-60, 181.
  46. ^ Laor 1986, p. 113, 188.
  47. ^ Laor 1986, p. 70, 182.
  48. ^ Laor 1986, p. 6,7.
  49. ^ Goren 2002, p. 87-88.
  50. ^ Karmon 1960, p. 155.
  51. ^ a b c d Schelhaas, Faehndrich & Goren 2017, p. 66.
  52. ^ Schelhaas, Faehndrich & Goren 2017, p. 124.
  53. ^ Schelhaas, Faehndrich & Goren 2017, p. 52.
  54. ^ Moscrop 2000, p. 22.
  55. ^ Dov Gavish (1994) French Cartography of the Holy Land in the Nineteenth Century, Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 126:1, 24-31, DOI: 10.1179/peq.1994.126.1.24
  56. ^ Moscrop 2000, p. 135.
  57. ^ Masalha 2019, p. 256a: "The systematic mapping, surveying and place‐naming projects ... reached their peak with the British Ordnance Survey of Western Palestine between 1871 and 1877."


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