Neighbouring Realms: Cartographic Traditions of the Medieval European and Arabic Worlds. Untangling a World View: The Stories Maps can Tell

Aiko Uytterhaegen
Gedachten in Kaart Gebracht: Hoe Geschiedenis en Aardrijkskunde een Symbiotisch leven leidenKaarten maken deel uit van ons materieel erfgoed. Ze zijn zowel wetenschappelijk, artistiek en cultureel-specifiek. Naast enkel geografische informatie, verlenen ze ook vitale aanwijzingen over hoe culturen de wereld en hun positie daarin zien. De studie van middeleeuwse cartografie dompelt ons onder in de toenmalige kosmologie; in het levensbeschouwelijk idee omtrent de herkomst van alles en omtrent het doel en de reden ervan, zoals de Nederlandse Van Dale kosmologie definieert.

Neighbouring Realms: Cartographic Traditions of the Medieval European and Arabic Worlds. Untangling a World View: The Stories Maps can Tell

Gedachten in Kaart Gebracht: Hoe Geschiedenis en Aardrijkskunde een Symbiotisch leven leiden

Kaarten maken deel uit van ons materieel erfgoed. Ze zijn zowel wetenschappelijk, artistiek en cultureel-specifiek. Naast enkel geografische informatie, verlenen ze ook vitale aanwijzingen over hoe culturen de wereld en hun positie daarin zien. De studie van middeleeuwse cartografie dompelt ons onder in de toenmalige kosmologie; in het levensbeschouwelijk idee omtrent de herkomst van alles en omtrent het doel en de reden ervan, zoals de Nederlandse Van Dale kosmologie definieert. In dit verband wordt kosmologische cartografie de bron van informatie.

Om dit aan te tonen werd een selectie gemaakt van Europese en Arabische kaarten van de 9de tot 14de eeuw CE; twee culturen, volkeren en ideologieën die in zekere mate een gemeenschappelijk verleden deelden en in elkaars nabijheid leefden. Onder ‘Europa’ verstaat dit artikel het gebied dat voortvloeide uit het Romeinse Rijk;  vandaag zou dit gebied Frankrijk, België, Duitsland, Engeland, Spanje en Italië beslaan. Voor de ‘Arabische wereld’ hanteert het Jim Al-Khalili’s omschrijving, i.e. de Arabisch sprekende wereld. Het is fascinerend en indrukwekkend door middel van kaarten te kunnen (her-)ontdekken hoe grensoverschrijdingen, wisselwerkingen en kruisbestuiving in de middeleeuwen hun parallelle en soms verwante verhalen beïnvloedden. 

Deze studie focust op drie gebieden; orientering, herkomst en de invloed van religie. Onderzoek naar de oriëntering, wat er gecentreerd is en hoe de kaart omkaderd is, is vaak veelzeggend. Zo bijvoorbeeld de Ebstorf mappamundi (c. 13de eeuw) die de landkaart superimposeert op het lichaam van Christus en Jerusalem veelzeggend de hoofdrol geeft door haar centraal af te beelden als zijn navel. Aartsbisschop Isidorus van Sevilla (560- 636 CE) beschreef Jerusalem als de ‘umbilicus regionis totius’ (the center of the region of Judea); of ‘navel-staarderij’ avant-la-lettre.

Herkomst is een belangrijk element in het onderzoek van materiële culturen. Indien de origines en evoluties van een traditie niet verstaan worden, kan men het belang van de verschillende elementen niet interpreteren. Onderzoek naar de herkomst van cartografische elementen laat toe mogelijke volgende evolutionaire stappen te veronderstellen. Zo kan er, doorheen de evolutie van beide onderzochte culturen, de opkomst van Portolaanse kaarten—latere kaarten gebruikt in zeevaart—worden voorspeld.

Religie speelde een belangrijke rol in het middeleeuws wereldbeeld van zowel Europa als van de Arabische wereld. Het is essentieel zich bewust te zijn van de intrinsieke aanwezigheid van geschiedenis in deze kaarten en van het feit dat de geleerden die deze middeleeuwse kaarten maakten, tenminste in betrekking met de Europese wereld, niet seculair waren. Nochtans is religie geen limiterende factor in wat hun wereldkaarten ons vertellen. In Europa omvatte en overheerste het Christelijke geloof de cartografie. In de Arabische wereld woog het religieuze aspect minder door in de cartografie. Islam promoveerde leergierigheid en moedigde aan om de fysieke wereld te verkennen en in kaart te brengen. Deze twee benaderingen zijn heel verschillend en dit is zichtbaar in de kaarten van het corpus. De middeleeuwse mappaemundi, zoals de Ebstorf en Hereford mappaemundi, zijn verbluffend rijke voorbeelden van de Europese cartografische traditie. Ze brengen een veelheid van religieuze elementen in beeld, zoals het Paradijs, de Ark van Noë, de Toren van Babel en andere Bijbelse steden en gebeurtenissen. De aanwezigheid van zulke elementen is duidelijk bewijs hoe geografie en geschiedenis nauw verwoven en onafscheidbaar waren in de middeleeuws Europese geest. De kaarten van de Arabische wereld daarentegen lijken op het eerste zicht ontdaan van religieuze elementen. Diepere studie van religieuze teksten maken duidelijk dat er wel kosmologische elementen opgenomen zijn, maar op een discrete manier, zoals in Al-Idrisī’s en al-Wardī’s wereldkaarten. Er zijn in verschillende kaarten afbeeldingen van het Qāf gebergte dat in hun kosmologie de aarde ondersteunde, omringde en haar van de hemel afscheidde en van de afbeeldingen van het land van Gog and Magog, waar bloeddorstige reuzen verbleven. Het is duidelijk dat religieuze verwijzingen en kosmologische ideeën op een verschillende manier afgebeeld werden, zowel in nadruk, als in frequentie, als in artistieke weergave.

Cartografische tradities waren levend. Ze evolueerden in lijn met veranderende feiten en wereldvisies van hun respectieve culturen. Kaarten waren een praktische weergave van een reëel wereldbeeld. Maar ze waren meer dan dat; nadere studie licht toe hoe de auteurs hun wereld zagen en verstonden. Bijvoorbeeld; het feit dat Europese kaarten zoveel bijbelse elementen opnam, duidt op het feit dat de Christelijke religie een sterke invloed had op de middeleeuwse verbeelding. Opname van elementen uit de Oudheid—zoals de monsters Scylla and Charybdis uit de Griekse mythologie en uit Homerus’ ‘Odyssee’—wijzen op het feit dat klassieke kennis en verhalen nog steeds in omloop waren en relevant bleven in de middeleeuwse gedachte. Lectuur van excerpten uit de Koran en de Hadith verduidelijkt hoe de Arabische wereld cartografie benaderde. Deze twee testen onderlijnen de noodzaak om de wereld te ontdekken,  en te bestuderen. Dit uit zich in de nadruk op accurate afbeelding van de landmassas, eerder dan op historische feiten en kosmologische elementen. Nochtans is de basis structuur van deze kaarten rechtstreeks geïnspireerd door de Griekse en Latijnse cartografische tradities. Met een stijgende kennis in de wereld, namen ook de uitwisselingen toe tussen de Europese en de Arabische wereld; en in de 14de eeuw veroverde de Arabische wereld Spanje. Deze directe vermenging van beide werelden verleende de westerse helft van de wereld toegang tot klassieke geschriften uit de Oudheid die bewaard gebleven waren in Arabische bronnen. En zo leerden ze van elkaar, herontdekten klassieke kennis en verbreedden hun wereldbeelden. 

Cartografie weerspiegelt duidelijk veranderende mentaliteiten, gewoontes, noden en realiteiten.  De evolutie in de middeleeuwse cartografie weerspiegelt de evolutie van de toen-en-daarmalig gekende wereld naar het volgende tijdperk; de Renaissance. De Renaissance was gekenmerkt door een geestesverruiming en daardoor eveneens een opening van de fysieke wereld. Het tijdperk van ontdekkingsreizen leidde tot een volgende stap in cartografie met de Portolaan die het verhaal doen van exploratie, handel en zeevaart. De Portolaan waren gebaseerd op ratio, wetenschap, wiskunde en precisie. Ze deden afstand van de middeleeuwse traditie om spirituele, tijdelijke en verhalende elementen op te nemen. 

 

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X. Bibliography:

 

 

Al-Khalili, J., The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave us the Renaissance, Penguin Books, 2011.

 

Aujac, G., compiled by Harley and Woodward, “The Foundations of Theoretical Cartography in Archaic and Classical Greece”, in The History of Cartography: Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, Eds. J.B. Harley and David Woodward, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987, pp. 130-147.

—— compiled by Harley and Woodward, “The Growth of an Empirical Cartography in Hellenistic Greece”, in The History of Cartography: Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, Eds. J.B. Harley and David Woodward, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987, pp. 148-160.

—— compiled by Harley and Woodward, “Greek Cartography in the Early Roman World”, in The History of Cartography: Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, Eds. J.B. Harley and David Woodward, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987, pp. 161-176.

 

——“Ptolemy”, in Trade, Travel, and Exploration in the Middle Ages: an Encyclopedia, Eds. J.B. Friedman and K.M. Figg, Routledge, 2000, pp. 507-511.

 

Antrim, Z., Routes and Realms: The Power of Place in the Early Islamic World, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

 

Bagrow, L., “The Origin of Ptolemy’s Geographia”, Geografiska Annaler, 1945, pp. 318-387. 

 

Bible. New International Version, http://biblehub.com (June 26th 2015).

 

Biggs, M., “Cartography, Territory, and European State Formation”, Comparative Studies in Society and History, (1999), pp. 374-405. 

 

Butzer, K.W., “From Columbus to Acosta: Science, Geography, and the New World”, Annals of the Association of American Geographical Research, 1992, pp. 543-565.

 

Cohen M., Madeline F., Eds., Space in the Medieval West: Places, Territories, and Imagined Geographies, Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2014.

 

Couprie, D.L., Heaven and Earth in Ancient Greek Cosmology: From Thales to Heraclides Ponticus, Dordrecht: Springer, 2011.

 

Craib, R.B., “Cartography and Power in the Conquest and Creation of New Spain”, Latin American Research Review (2000), pp. 7-36.

 

Curry, M.R., “Towards a Geography of a World without Maps: Lessons from Ptolemy and Postal Codes”, Annals of the Association of American Geographers (2005), pp. 680-691. 

 

de Silva, C.R., “Spain and Portugal”, in Trade, Travel, and Exploration in the Middle Ages: an Encyclopedia, Eds. J.B. Friedman and K.M. Figg, Routledge, 2000, pp. 507-511. 

Dilke, O.A.W., “The Culmination of Greek Cartography in Ptolemy” In The History of Cartography Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, Eds. J.B. Harley and David Woodward, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987, pp. 177-200.

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——“Maps in the Service of the State: Roman Cartography to the End of the Augustan Era”, in The History of Cartography: Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, Eds. J.B. Harley and David Woodward, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987, pp. 201-211. 

 

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Universiteit of Hogeschool
MA in de Kunstwetenschappen en Archeologie
Pitzer College, BA in Anthropologie en Kunst Geschiedenis
Publicatiejaar
2015
Kernwoorden
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