Detail map of Babylon Governorate, Iraq Overview map of Babylon Governorate, Iraq

A: Babylon Governorate, Iraq

The Babylonian Map of the World, the Oldest Usable Map

Circa 700 to 500 BCE
The Babylonian map of the world, from Sippar, Mesopotamia.

A close-up view of the Babylonian map of the World. This partially broken clay tablet contains both cuneiform inscriptions and a unique map of the Mesopotamian world. Probably from Sippar, Mesopotamia, Iraq. 700-500 BCE

The Babylonian Mappa mundi or world map (British Museum 92687), a diagrammatic labeled depiction of the world, was probably created between 700 and 500 BCE, in Sippar, southern iraq, where it was discovered. It was first published in 1899. The map was written in cuneiform script on a clay tablet, of which only the major portions survive, measuring 12.2 x 8.2 cm.

"Babylon is shown in the centre (the rectangle in the top half of the circle), and Assyria, Elam and other places are also named. The central area is ringed by a circular waterway labelled 'Salt-Sea'. The outer rim of the sea is surrounded by what were probably originally eight regions, each indicated by a triangle, labelled 'Region' or 'Island', and marked with the distance in between. The cuneiform text describes these regions, and it seems that strange and mythical beasts as well as great heroes lived there, although the text is far from complete.

"The regions are shown as triangles since that was how it was visualized that they first would look when approached by water.

"The map is sometimes taken as a serious example of ancient geography, but although the places are shown in their approximately correct positions, the real purpose of the map is to explain the Babylonian view of the mythological world"(, accessed 03-08-2014).

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