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Posts Tagged ‘Black Death

“A map is the greatest of all epic poems”*…

 

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A marmot hiding in plain sight in the Swiss Alps

 

Errors—both accidental and deliberate—are not uncommon in maps (17th-century California as an island, the omission of Seattle in a 1960s AAA map). Military censors have long transformed nuclear bunkers into nondescript warehouses and routinely pixelate satellite images of sensitive sites. Many maps also contain intentional errors to trap would-be copyright violators. The work of recording reality is particularly vulnerable to plagiarism: if a cartographer is suspected of copying another’s work, he can simply claim to be duplicating the real world— ideally, the two should be the same. Mapmakers often rely on fictitious streets, typically no longer than a block, to differentiate their accounts of the truth (Oxygen Street in Edinburgh, for example).

But there is another, less institutional reason to hide something in a map. According to Lorenz Hurni, professor of cartography at ETH Zurich, these illustrations are part inside joke, part coping mechanism. Cartographers are “quite meticulous, really high-precision people,” he says. Their entire professional life is spent at the magnification level of a postage stamp. To sustain this kind of concentration, Hurni suspects that they eventually “look for something to break out of their daily routine.” The satisfaction of these illustrations comes from their transgressive nature— the labor and secrecy required to conceal one of these visual puns…

Slipping one past one of the most rigorous map-making institutions in the world: “For Decades, Cartographers Have Been Hiding Covert Illustrations Inside of Switzerland’s Official Maps.”

* Gilbert H. Grosvenor (President of the National Geographic Society, first editor of the magazine, and champion of cartography [and photojournalism])

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As we hide Easter eggs, we might recall that it was on this date in 1345– according to 14th century scholars at the University of Paris– the Black Death was created… from what they called “a triple conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in the 40th degree of Aquarius, occurring on the 20th of March, 1345.”

AKA the Pestilence, the Great Bubonic Plague, the Great Plague, the Plague, or less commonly the Great Mortality or Black Plague, the Black Death was actually transmitted by fleas who had fed on diseased rats.  It killed an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351.

More on “the greatest catastrophe ever.”

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Spread of the Black Death in Europe and the Near East (1346–1353)

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Written by LW

March 20, 2020 at 1:01 am

Don’t know much about history…

Readers may know that there has accumulated on YouTube quite a collection of “adaptations” of pop hits turned to the teaching of history…  e.g., “William the Conqueror” (to Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback”), “Joan of Arc” (“Seven Nation Army” by White Stripes), “The French Revolution” (Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”), “The Spanish Inquisition” (The Human League, “[Keep Feeling] Fascination”), and dozens of others…  The work of Honolulu-based “historyteachers” (“Mrs. B” and “Mr. H”– “history teachers, duh”), the videos are both amusing and illuminating…

But surely their masterpiece– and equally surely their most profoundly strange piece of work– is a little ditty devoted to Genghis Khan’s gift to Europe (via the Genoese at Kaffa)…

 

As we tap our toes, we might recall that it was on this date that Schindler’s List opened in New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto; it went on to gross $96.1 million in the United States, over $321.2 million worldwide, and to win seven Academy Awards– including director Steven Spielberg’s first.

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