“A mappa mundi […] is any medieval European map of the world. […] To modern eyes, mappae mundi can look superficially primitive and inaccurate. However, mappae mundi were never meant to be used as navigational charts and they make no pretence of showing the relative areas of land and water. Rather, mappae mundi were schematic and were meant to illustrate different principles. The simplest mappae mundi were diagrams meant to preserve and illustrate classical learning easily. The zonal maps should be viewed as a kind of teaching aid—easily reproduced and designed to reinforce the idea of the Earth’s sphericity and climate zones” (cited from Wikipedia).
What would a mappa mundi of our times look like? A modern equivalent of such a map would have to focus on those spaces of our planet that we have a less vivid imagination of than the physical shape of the world that in medieval times was a much less familiar view than it is today. The following gridded population cartogram generated over the whole surface of Earth could be such a contemporary depiction of the world. It divides the world into equal spaces of population realigning the map view to show the human planet in a similar way as mappae mundi showed the world centuries ago:
Despite being an unusual form of a gridded cartogram, it gives insights into the human geography of the world’s population. The four traditional physical hemispheres, dividing the world into north, south, east, and west, become almost irrelevant and are replaced here by a new division. The population centre of the world is situated on top of a mountain next to the Tiger Lake (Badai Talai) near the city of Udaipur. That point, displayed in the map’s centre, stands symbolic for the effects of recent demographic changes in the world population.
The global population centre is gradually shifting from the currently most populated region in Asia towards a most rapidly growing African continent, which pushes the signiﬁ cance of Europe and the Americas literally towards the edges of the planet in this modern version of a mappa mundi.
More details about this graphic are described in a contribution to the journal Environment and Planning A. Here are the bibliographic details of the paper:
- Hennig, B.D. (2013). The human planet. Environment and Planning A 45 (3): 489-491.
Article as PDF; Article online (EPA)
The map was first shown at a talk in 2009 (see a Prezi presentation of it here), and the technique and principle behind the creation of the map is described in more detail in my book Rediscovering the World (see section 4.3.2 on page 119ff).