Thursday, April 10, 2014

Back to the Middle Ages. Let’s talk about Maps, and Roads

After a short hiatus dealing with other topics, let’s resume our discussion about medieval times. From all you readers of my blog, we know my book is set where technology today is still trapped in the middle ages.

My upcoming novel is set in Europe, particularly Switzerland. My characters move from one part of the country to the other. Since many of my characters come from different countries in Europe, I had to reference different locations and places.

I researched older maps to determine where to set the location of my novel. Referencing these maps helped me in choosing and naming cities I used in my novel. Many countries, cities and regions today have a different name then what they had during the Middle Ages. Referencing a map created the time set during the time frame of your novel shall prevent you from making a historical mistake.

Writing about traveling and locations may make you wonder about how someone navigated the area during those times. There is several short answers to that question; paths, roads and maps. (I am leaving out traveling over water for a blog later)

Paths were necessary to travel through woods and forests. Many of these paths were created by cutting trees downs or just by the constant passage of travelers moving over and over again on one trail. Paths may also be created by animals; many herding animals that migrate from one area to another can leave huge paths that are easily maneuvered by people. Other animals leave small trails that may help a traveler through a patch of woods or forests.

Another way to travel is to make a man-made road, this is not an easy task, and it could take many years and tons of man-hours to complete. Many of the roads created were between major cities or points of trade; this was to insure the proper exchange of goods that was necessary for the growth of a city’s economy. Some of the roads in Europe were first constructed by the Romans, and after over 2,000 years, many of these roads are still present today.

Let’s just pause for a moment and contemplate about that reality. Think of a road that existed during the time of the Romans, imagine over the generations the people and supplies that had traveled over that road. For the readers of my blog who have European ancestors: your distance relatives could have been walking and traveling down those very roads.

Now we have something to travel on; we need a way to know where we are going, and how long it shall take us. Maps have always been a tool for man to represent an area or a location.

Before I get more into this subject, let’s determine the difference between a map and a chart. A map usually determines location and travel over ground, and a chart does this via water. Sorry, to sidetrack but I served in the Coast Guard and then the Army; I have dealt with both and wanted to express my experience of both with you.

So maps are a representation to represent a location or area of land. Placing a road or path on this map can now tell the user how to travel between locations, accurately done to scale it may also give the traveler a sense of how long this trip can take.

Many maps were created during the middle ages. These maps were created on tapestries, engraved in wood or on vellum for travelers to carry with them. In my novel, a group of knights navigate a mountain range with such a vellum map.

Maps were created by true artists called cartographers and were valued greatly. The skill of map making was lost during the early parts of the dark ages, and the cartographers had to relearn this skill from scratch. This skill included drawing to scale and writing. As time progresses during the renaissance, you can see the quality and accuracy of the maps increasing.

During the renaissance, many maps were being created onto copper plates. These maps could be copied using the printing press; this was the standard until the photographic techniques that we have become familiar with today.

Often maps were created with a political or religious point of view. Some maps that were created were considered top secret by their home nation. Religious maps of the area sometimes showed Jerusalem as the center of the world. Many of these particular maps were world maps that were circular in shape and called T and O, or O and T Maps (Proper name of these maps are Orbis Terrarum, or circle of the lands).

Maps and roads became a valuable part of the way our world developed. With each generation, the maps became larger, showing the lands that were recently discovered. When the maps became bigger, the world became smaller. When roads became easier to travel upon, goods soon moved among countries, with goods followed knowledge of other counties and cultures. Maps and roads also allowed wars to be fought over vast distances; however, it also allowed knowledge and goods to be traveled over that distance. As with all inventions, there is good and evil inherited into it, being noble or malevolent is what we use it for.

Next time: Money

1 comment:

  1. The great thing about the past it helps up to understand the future. I love the Medieval times. I think that is why the Game of Thrones is so popular