Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Enchanting Sea Monsters on Medieval Maps!

The Enchanting Sea Monsters on Medieval Maps!

Different kinds of Sea Monsters have been depicted on the 16th and early 17th century maps, hint at how people perceived the seas and it's dangers at that time.

The map shown below was cartographed in 1577, and is very representative of sailors that traversed distances at that time and brought back stories of dangers encountered by them!

During those times, the sea was unknown and the few that went on exploration many a times did not come back due to their ships encountering storms and going off course and at times being wreaked at sea!

And those that returned had plenty to relate about what they experienced and how difficult it had been during those times at sea.

With hardly much navigational aids, the future set of explorers would base their journey on the stories and experiences of the earlier set of explorers and the cartographers or map makers would incorporate that knowledge by way of Sea Monsters to depict dangers along the way.

In the map above you will notice:

The sea monsters that populated medieval and renaissance imaginations - fierce toothed animals battling waves, long serpents, winged pigs, etc., were similar to animals found on land, and it was felt that an equivalent number of sea creatures would be in the seas, and with the seas being unknown, the animals just got bigger, more weird, and many times monstrous!
Most of the sea monsters reflect an effort on the part of the cartographers to be an accurate depiction of what lived in the seas, and could be encountered while navigating those waters!
Further more dangers like sand which caused ships to breach, would be shown as sand bars on the maps for navigators to avoid.

(The above map created on the knowledge of Ptolemee or Ptolemy is of India with other Asian countries, and relates to the journey of Alexander the Great! Do notice the city of Palibothra towards the Bengal region of the Map. Palibothra, adjacent to modern day Patna, was Pataliputra, with Megasthenes providing a detailed account of its splendour)

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