The World From A Different Point of View

Compare the different ways people viewed the world depending on their culture and location.  It can be fascinating to consider the world from a different point of view.  Now every schoolchild in every country on earth learns from the same basic maps and globes. But five hundred years ago the world would have been mostly mystery.

If you were an ancient Greek you thought the world looked like this:

This is a map copied from ancient maps by Ptolemy.  This one was made in 1482.  The concept of the world hadn’t changed in over 2000 years.

This is a view of the world first drawn by Ptolemy in about 150 AD. Europeans were using this map of the world with few variations until 1492.

If you were Chinese in the middle ages the world looked like this:

This map was drawn in about 1389. It shows very little other than China.

If you were a Polynesian the world looked like this:

This is a Polynesian stick chart. Each individual navigator and mariner made his own chart from natural materials. The chart does not show land marks. It shows ocean currents and wave patterns. Only the maker of the chart could interpret it as each was unique.

Polynesians navigated by the stars, the currents, and the feel of the ocean waves.

The Arabs drew their maps like this:

Notice that north is at the bottom of the map. It has much more of Asia mapped than Ptolemy’s map, but otherwise looks very similar.

Draw your own map of the world from memory with your own town as the center. Begin at your town and expand your map outward showing only places you have actually traveled to. Include roads (trade routes), other towns, mountains and rivers, and major landmarks that are important to you. What is your worldview?

Additional Layers

  • Worldview means much more than how you literally see the world; it also includes how you philosophically view the world.  Do you believe in good and evil?  Do you believe in relative morality or absolute morality?  Do you believe that a deity is involved in the creation and maintenance of this world?  Do you believe that people have good natures or evil natures?  All of these beliefs contribute to your worldview.  It is very hard for people with different world views to have a conversation about anything meaningful because their definitions and the way they see the world are so opposed.
  • Try to draw a map of the whole world from memory.  Which coastlines and shapes do you remember best?  Are the ones closest to home?  Probably.  We all focus on our own home before far off places, as is proper.
  • What happened in 1492 that changed Ptolemy’s map of the world for Europeans?  Whatever you think of Columbus morally, there is no doubt that his discovery changed everything.  What would the world have been like if neither Columbus nor anyone else had ever connected the old world with the new?
  • Go back and look at that Chinese map.  Compare it to a modern map of China.  Can you identify the landmarks and shape of the coastline?  Which direction is the Chinese map oriented?

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