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The Medieval World View: Contemplating the Mappamundi



Looking at a medieval mappamundi (or world map) is a disorienting experience. Oriented to the east, displaying unfamiliar geographical forms and blanketed with images of strange animals and monstrous humans, it does not correspond to our modern concept of a world map. In the late 19th century scholars of the history of cartography dismissed medieval maps as a sign of ignorance. More recent studies have cast new light on these complex symbolic constructions, and scholars are searching for insights into medieval concepts of time and space, as well as clues to the ways in which knowledge of ancient geography was transmitted to the medieval intellectual world.