[ISHMap-List] A critical review of the hypothesis of a medieval origin for portolan charts

Luis Robles luis.a.robles.macias at gmail.com
Sat Mar 15 08:36:18 CET 2014

I received this news last Wednesday through from Frank Jacobs's "Strange
Maps" blog in BigThink (
I assume that many of you must have received it too but just in case I
thought I should post it here for general information.

*Roel Nicolai*, a PhD student at the University of Utrecht, presented last
March 3 his doctoral dissertation entitled *A critical review of the
hypothesis of a medieval origin for portolan charts*. He reached several
provocative conclusions that I expect will stir debate among the members of
the list. The book is not available online yet, but in the University's
website there is a press
English from which I have extracted the following statements:

   - "A mathematical analysis of the oldest surviving portolan has revealed
   that its source data must have been derived from a portolan chart - instead
   of the other way round."
   - "it is unlikely that the nautical compass was available in time and
   that  navigational methods used at that time were sophisticated enough to
   determine distances at such a degree of accuracy"
   - "Nicolai has also established that portolan charts were drawn on the
   Mercator projection, or a similar type of projection."
   - "they were much further advanced in terms of knowledge in the Middle
   Ages than we think"
   - "An Arabic-Islamic origin is highly unlikely, according to Nicolai."
   - "It therefore seems plausible that portolan charts originated from a
   tradition that is now lost. It is an intriguing question from what culture
   that tradition stemmed. Further research will be required to establish
   whether or not Greco-Roman antiquity is a realistic option, says Nicolai."

The university does not say whether Mr Nicolai was awarded the doctorate or
how to get access to his publication.

Luis A. Robles Macías

Profile in Academia.edu <http://independent.academia.edu/LuisRoblesMacías>
Blog: http://historiaymapas.wordpress.com/
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