Cartography of the planet: why is the North at the top of most maps in the world?

Cartography of the planet: why is the North at the top of most maps in the world?

  • Jerry Brotton
  • BBC Radio 4, “One Direction” series *

Photo Credit, Getty Images

image caption,

Map of the Greek astronomer and geographer Claudius Ptolemy.

Few things seem more natural than the four cardinal points.

Wherever you are on the planet, you can see how the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The North Star will tell you where the North is, while depending on the season or where in the world you are, the South can be located through the constellation of the Southern Cross or by checking the maximum inclination in the sky. of the sun with respect to the horizon. (zenith).

Without the cardinal points, we would be lost. Rather than dots on a map or compass, they are powerful ideas with political, moral, and cultural meanings.

But why did the north end at the top of most maps in the world?

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