World’s Oldest Surviving Terrestrial Globe

The world’s oldest terrestrial globe exists in Germany. The globe shows the world as it was known in 1492 when it was created by Martin Behaim. The Erdapfel, or ‘earth apple’ in German, shows what people in the 1400s knew and thought of the world around them.

The globe shows the European continent dominating the majority of the globe, with a wide ocean separating Europe from Asia. Christopher Columbus was still on his adventure to discover the Americas, so they are not included in the Erdapfel. Japan, or Cipango, is included in the map although it is much bigger and further south than it is in reality. What we now know as Malaysia is represented by a large peninsula, which doesn’t actually exist. The mythical St. Brendan’s Island is also pictured on the globe.

The map was painted by Georg Glockenon and was on display in the town hall of Nuremberg until the late 1500s. The globe then changed ownership to the Behaim family, and in 1907 was placed in the German National Museum in Nuremberg. The globe was then acquisitioned by the Vienna University of technology to be studied and put into high resolution. The Behaim Digital Globe Project funded the imaging technologies, which were repeated in 2011.

Martin Behaim's globe, 1492.

Martin Behaim’s globe, 1492.

The globe is an important look into history; it shows how people thought and what they believed about the world around them. Myth was still as much a part of geography as actual science was becoming. Humanity’s technological abilities increased, and more of the world became known to the European mapmakers as explorers came home with reports of their discoveries. Until the entire world had been mapped, mankind still didn’t quite know what was really out there around them.

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