U.S. Map Quilt

Cartography is the study that deals with the representation of the Earth or part of it through maps, charts, and other types of documentation. The first maps were drawn in the 6th century B.C. by the Greeks, who, as a result of their military and navigational expeditions, created the main center of geographic knowledge in the Western world. The first atlas in modern history appeared in the 16th century, in 1570. The word cartography was introduced by the Portuguese historian ManuelFrancisco Carvalhosa, 2nd Viscount of Santarem, in a letter dated December 8, 1839 and addressed to the Brazilian historian Francisco Adolfo de Varnhagen. In the program History, journalist Mônica Teixeira receives Paulo Miceli, from the Department of Modern History of the State University of Campinas. The professor talks about the history of cartography and the importance that maps have for mankind. According to Miceli, the map brings information on cultural, strategic, war and religious aspects.

“Before the invention of writing, mankind drew maps on cave walls, through cave paintings made with the intention of representing the path of the places where there was hunting”, says the historian. The map is one of the ways man found to locate himself in space. Before the invention of writing, men already made maps to represent the places where they lived and passed through. With the appearance of the first civilizations, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Egypt and China, and the expansion of their territories, maps became even more important. It was necessary to know the limits of the dominated areas and the possibilities of expanding their borders. More than a tool for orientation and location, maps became a fundamental technique for the expansion of civilizations, and their technical development ended up being placed at the service of power. They became a fundamental instrument to define mirial strategies, in the conquest of new territories and other peoples.

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Through maps, governments also organized the collection of taxes from regions under large empires, defined military and trade routes, and synthesized the main information about the geographic space that interested them. Navigation charts – The development of navigation, in the 13th century, demanded the elaboration of more and more precise maps to support the displacement to more and more distant places. During this period, navigation charts or portolan charts appeared, created by the Genoese navigators (Italy), who preceded Christopher Columbus. The portolan charts used the compass to mark the directions of known places from a reference point. This type of maps, also called “cartas de marear” by the Portuguese, could only be made with the popularization of the use of the compass, known for approximately 2,000 years, but only introduced in Europe around the 12th century. The great European navigations in the 15th and 16th centuries marked the conquest of the Atlantic Ocean. It was necessary to discover new trade routes.

Portugal and Spain, the first states to consolidate in the Modern Age, threw themselves into the challenge of searching for goods extracted or produced in the Orient, across the Atlantic. New inventions and technical improvements in the art of sailing made it possible to navigate to places never before known. The invention of the caravels, the improvement of the compass, the invention of the astrolabe (an instrument that indicated the inclination of the sun and made it possible to determine the position of the ship in relation to the equator) and other instruments made such an undertaking possible. The Portuguese circumvented the African continent, having no idea of the distances and difficulties that separated the Portuguese kingdom from the goods of the Orient. The investments were very expensive and high risk. Several ships disappeared and thousands of lives were lost in these ventures. The path pursued by the Portuguese was the right one. When compared to the Spanish option, it was also the most viable. But, at that moment, nobody knew enough about the world to be sure of this. The Portuguese and Spaniards of that time came to a rather broad knowledge of the world and represented this new geographic horizon, through maps. Excluding Antarctica, the view of the distribution of land and water became very close to the one we have today.


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