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The age of dragons and georeferencing

Last updated 6 months ago by UtrechtCentral.com

You might have noticed the illustrations of dragons on the corners of old cartographic maps. What do they imply?

Cartographers used to illustrate sea serpents, dragons, and other mythical creatures in the ancient maps and globes. This action was to point out the unknown nature of the unmapped lands. The presumed danger of the unknown areas creates this imaginary style which is not merely decorative. It has a history and mythology of its own.

The phrase “Here There be Dragons” has been found on the 16th-century Lenox Globe. This globe is held in the New York Public Library. It is one of the rare instances that testifies to the use of the famous phrase. However, the rare usage of the phrase does not dismiss the adventurous nature of thinking about all unknown and unmapped geographies that might be somewhere out there.

Terra Incognita

The Latin phrase used to describe the unmapped and uncharted land is “Terra Incognita.” The phrase “Here be Dragons” makes sense in relation to the notion of terra incognito. In these unknown terra incognitas there exists a possibility of finding the darkest and scariest unknowns, disguised as dragons and serpents.

The good (or bad) news is, however, scientists are now able to map even the remotest corners of our planet. Whether this is lucky or unlucky, depends on the attitude of every individual. The exciting idea of having unknown lands out there might be a guilty pleasure that technology is taking away from us. Yet, to be fair, it is bringing a new perspective to create new scientific hobbies out of our old maps. One of these new technological adventures is under progress by Utrecht University.

Georeferencing: bringing old maps to life

Now that every hidden corner of the world has been carefully mapped, Utrecht University makes a new virtual reality out of its collection of old and new maps. Georeferencing is a way of putting old maps on top of the modern ones in order to give better access to researchers who try to make sense of transformations and changes.

A total sum of about 2,500 early maps have been made digitally accessible with the help of GEOREFERENCING.

Utrecht University
Mexique by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash.com

Join the club of georeferencers

The optimum access that georeferencing provides, makes it possible to closely observing the changes that “terra incognitos” have been through. Another interesting feature is the interactive nature of this method. Interested people can simply click on a link and fix the location of a map.

This contribution helps to provide a more precise collection. Also, the users who georeference consistently will be recognized and marked by the software. If you are interested in being a part of transforming nests of dragons into the accurate maps, now it is your turn. However, I am sure that the dragons of terra incognitas are still somewhere waiting for us. Maybe not here on the earth, but ‘there might be dragons’ somewhere.

Shabnam Shirzadi
Shabnam Shirzadi
Shabnam Shirzadi is a dramatic writer and researcher based in Amsterdam. She has currently graduated in Theatre Studies from the University of Amsterdam. As a writer, she had experienced with different forms of integrating fact and fiction in her previous works to create an alternate history in our imaginations. Currently, museums, castles, and remnants of old architecture and civilization inspire her. At the same time, she tries to find her way in mythology, fiction, and drama by reading and writing about them. For her, writing is the only vehicle through which she can travel in times and spaces.

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