Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Fourth Part of the World

As early as the 7th century, Saint Isidore of Seville, considered “le dernier savant du monde ancien”—the last scholar of the ancient world, upon whom all later histories of Spain and Portugal were based, drew in his Enclypedia: “Elymologiae,” around 600 A.D., the so-called Vatican map, one of the first T-O maps.

From the beginning of cosmography, maps were basically illustrated with these three parts to the world: Asia, Europe and Africa. It was believed and argued that no other continents could exist—a “fact” that was taught in Universities throughout Europe as late as the 15th century. The first of these maps is referred to as a T-O map, because of its obvious design. At the same time, the Zonal Map (see last post) was devised to show the five temperate zones in which only two were habitable and that the known world was contained entirely within the northern temperate zone's Eastern Hemisphere.

These three parts of the world, therefore, contained not only the known world, but the habitable part of the world. And, as shown in the last post, the concept of the world as then known, and its organization and makeup, did not allow for any other continents to have existed in the open area of the sea—again, a “fact” that was taught in Universities throughout Europe into and throughout most the 15th century.

The Beatus Map, showing an area for Antipodes, was merely the inclusion of a group of monsters believed to exist in the southern hemisphere in the extremes of the Asian continent, and so placed because no one had ever seen these monsters, and it was unknown where their habitat might be; however, this map and its concept was not taught in universities, nor utilized by any of the main map makers of the time.

The Complex Map, or Great World Maps, were the most famous mappae mundi (maps of the world), and used the T-O model as their base but included coastal, mountain, and river details, along with cities, towns and provinces.

To modern eyes, mappae mundi look superficially primitive and inaccurate. However, mappae mundi were never meant to be used as navigational charts and they make no pretense of showing the relative areas of land and water. Rather, mappae mundi were schematic and were meant to illustrate different principles. The simplest mappamundi were diagrams meant to preserve and illustrate classical learning easily. The zonal maps were a kind of teaching aid—easily reproduced and designed to reinforce the idea of the Earth's sphericity and climate zones. T-O maps were designed to schematically illustrate the three land masses of the world as it was known to the Romans and their medieval European heirs. The larger mappae mundi have the space and detail to illustrate further concepts, such as the cardinal directions, distant lands, Bible stories, history, mythology, flora, fauna and exotic races. In their fullest form, such as the Ebstorf and Hereford maps, they become minor encyclopedias of medieval knowledge.

The point is, that at the time Columbus sailed westward into the Atlantic in search of a western route to China, Japan and the Spice Islands, these T-O maps included the known world. In addition, Columbus had Portolan charts, navigational maps based on realistic descriptions of harbors and coasts, first developed in the 14th century in Italy Portugal and Spain—however, these charts were limited to the western coast of Europe and Africa, where seamen had sailed and drawn what they saw. There was still the belief that there could be no continent to the west of Europe and Africa because of the understanding of how the earth’s seas and land masses developed.

Two things convinced Columbus that he could reach Asia by sailing west—the first was this understanding that no continent or land mass could possibly exist to the west of Europe and Africa in the middle of the sea, and second, that he was convinced the world was smaller than it actually was. He accepted the earlier understanding that a degree on the Earth globe was 53 ½ miles instead of the later 66 miles (actually, the distance is about 69 miles). Thus, he thought the distance would be far less than it actually was to Asia, and that there would be open sea all the way.

When he saw land after 33 days of open sailing, Columbus was convinced he had found the islands of Asia (Indonesia). This belief never left him; however, following Columbus were many others and it eventually became understood that a continent actually did exist in the middle of the sea and eventually became known as America (Amerigo after Amerigo Vespucci).

“There have been known since antiquity that three parts of the world existed. But these parts have in fact now been more widely explored, and a fourth part has been discovered,” wrote the unknown author of “Introduction to Cosmology” in 1507.

There now existed a fourth part of the world. Asia, Europe, Africa, and “Amerigen” or America.

This terminology sounds suspiciously like Ether’s writing in which the Lord told the Brother of Jared: “And it came to pass that the Lord commanded them that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been.” And that quarter where man never had been was the Americas, the western hemisphere, to which the Jaredites were directed and later the Nephites and Mulekites

“And that after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord” (Ether 13:2)

America--the fourth part of the world.

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