Some of the earliest known signs of maps and cartographical processes are thought to be to the heavens, not the earth. Dots dating to 16,500 BC were found on the walls of Lascaux caves - mapping out parts of the night sky (including three bright stars - Vega, Deneb and Altair).
I think that this reference to some of the earliest examples of maps is really useful and intersting - it has given me the idea to look further into mapping the night sky and how constellations link to this, and can be communicated through images and photographs.
Anaximander was the first ancient Greek to draw a map of the known world. It is for this reason that he is considered by many to be the first mapmaker. A scarcity of archaeological and written evidence prevents us from giving any assessment of his map. What we may presume is that he portrayed land and sea in a map form. Unfortunately, any definite geographical knowledge that he included in his map is lost as well.
Although the map has not survived, Hecataeus of Miletus produced another map fifty years later that he claimed was an improved version of the map of his illustrious predecessor. The world according to Hekatæus, 500 BC Hecatæus's map describes the earth as a circular plate with an encircling Ocean and Greece in the centre of the world. This was a very popular contemporary Greek worldview, derived originally from the Homeric poems. Also, similar to many other early maps in antiquity his map has no scale. As units of measurements, this map used "days of sailing" on the sea and "days of marching" on dry land. The purpose of this map was to accompany Hecatæus's geographical work that was called Periodos Ges, or Journey Round the World. Periodos Ges was divided into two books, "Europe" and "Asia", with the latter including Libya, the name of which was an ancient term for all of the known Africa.
The way in which the geographical knowledge of the Greeks advanced from the previous assumptions of the Earth's shape was through Herodotus and his conceptual view of the world. This map also did not survive and many have speculated that it was never produced. A possible reconstruction of his map is displayed below. The world according to Herodotus, 440 BC Herodotus traveled very extensively, collecting information and documenting his findings in his books on Europe, Asia, and Libya. He also combined his knowledge with what he learned from the people he met. Herodotus wrote his Histories in the mid-5th century BC. Although his work was dedicated to the story of long struggle of the Greeks with the Persian Empire, Herodotus also included everything he knew about the geography, history, and peoples of the world. Thus, his work provides a detailed picture of the known world of the 5th century BC. Herodotus rejected the prevailing view of most 5th century BC maps that the earth is a circular plate surrounded by Ocean.
Pomponius is unique among ancient geographers in that, after dividing the earth into five zones, of which two only were habitable, he asserts the existence of antichthones, inhabiting the southern temperate zone inaccessible to the folk of the northern temperate regions from the unbearable heat of the intervening torrid belt. On the divisions and boundaries of Europe, Asia and Africa, he repeats Eratosthenes; like all classical geographers from Alexander the Great (except Ptolemy) he regards the Caspian Sea as an inlet of the Northern Ocean, corresponding to the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea on the south.
Later 5th Century
In 2007, the Tabula Peutingeriana, a 12th-century replica of a 5th-century map, was placed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register and displayed to the public for the first time. Although well preserved and believed to be an accurate copy of an authentic original, the scroll media it is on is so delicate now it must be protected at all times from exposure to daylight.
The three Han Dynasty maps found at Mawangdui differ from the earlier Qin State maps. While the Qin maps place the cardinal direction of north at the top of the map, the Han maps are orientated with the southern direction at the top.The Han maps are also more complex, since they cover a much larger area, employ a large number of well-designed map symbols, and include additional information on local military sites and the local population.
The Yu Ji Tu, or Map of the Tracks of Yu Gong, carved into stone in 1137, located in the Stele Forest of Xian. This 3 ft (0.91 m) squared map features a graduated scale of 100 li for each rectangular grid. China's coastline and river systems are clearly defined and precisely pinpointed on the map. Yu Gong is in reference to the Chinese deity described in the geographical chapter of the Classic of History, dated 5th century BC.
Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī's Kitāb ṣūrat al-Arḍ ("Book on the appearance of the Earth") was completed in 833. It is a revised and completed version of Ptolemy's Geography, consisting of a list of 2402 coordinates of cities and other geographical features following a general introduction.Al-Khwārizmī, Al-Ma'mun's most famous geographer, corrected Ptolemy's gross overestimate for the length of the Mediterranean Sea (from the Canary Islands to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean); Ptolemy overestimated it at 63 degrees of longitude, while al-Khwarizmi almost correctly estimated it at nearly 50 degrees of longitude. Al-Ma'mun's geographers "also depicted the Atlantic and Indian Oceans as open bodies of water, not land-locked seas as Ptolemy had done.
The Da Ming hunyi tu map, dating from about 1390, is in multicolour. The horizontal scale is 1:820,000 and the vertical scale is 1:1,060,000. In 1579, Luo Hongxian published the Guang Yutu atlas, including more than 40 maps, a grid system, and a systematic way of representing major landmarks such as mountains, rivers, roads and borders. The Guang Yutu incorporates the discoveries of naval explorer Zheng He's 15th century voyages along the coasts of China, Southeast Asia, India and Africa.
The Ottoman cartographer Piri Reis published navigational maps in his Kitab-ı Bahriye. The work includes an atlas of charts for small segments of the mediterranean, accompanied by sailing instructions covering the sea. In the second version of the work, he included a map of the Americas.The Piri Reis map drawn by the Ottoman cartographer Piri Reis in 1513, is one of the oldest surviving maps to show the Americas.
Diogo Ribeiro, a Portuguese cartographer working for Spain, made what is considered the first scientific world map: the 1527 Padrón real The layout of the map (Mapamundi) is strongly influenced by the information obtained during the Magellan-Elcano trip around the world. Diogo's map delineates very precisely the coasts of Central and South America. The map shows, for the first time, the real extension of the Pacific Ocean. It also shows, for the first time, the North American coast as a continuous one (probably influenced by the Esteban Gómez's exploration in 1525). It also shows the demarcation of the Treaty of Tordesillas.
Gerardus Mercator (1512–1594) was a Flemish cartographer who in his quest to make the world “look right” on the maps invented a new projection, called the Mercator projection. The projection was mathematically based and the Mercator maps gave much more accurate maps for world-wide navigation than any until that date. As in all cylindrical projections, parallels and meridians are straight and perpendicular to each other. In accomplishing this, the unavoidable east-west stretching of the map, is accompanied by a corresponding north-south stretching, so that at every point location, the east-west scale is the same as the north-south scale, making the projection conformal. The development of the Mercator projection represented a major breakthrough in the nautical cartography of the 16th century. However, it was much ahead of its time, since the old navigational and surveying techniques were not compatible with its use in navigation. The Mercator projection would over time become the conventional view of the world that we are accustomed to today.
In 1570 Abraham Ortelius created the "first modern atlas".
A general map of the world by Samuel Dunn, 1794, containing star chart, map of the Solar System, map of the Moon and other features along with Earth's both hemispheres.