[Lecture] A New Interpretation on the Eastern Limit of Ptolemy’s World Map and its Influence on European Worldview in the Evolution of Southeast Asian Mapping

Readers in Bangkok may be interested in this talk at the Siam Society by Trongjai Hutangkura on 31 August 2017.

The Geography, written in the second century CE by Claudius Ptolemy (c. 100 ce- c. 170 ce), described the Earth’s geography through knowledge from Greco-Roman trade routes. The map India beyond the Ganges presented geographical information stretching from the river’s east bank towards China. Although previous studies provided place-names based on cognate comparisons between Ptolemaic data and recent toponyms, the identification of the Ptolemaic eastern limit remains problematic, exemplified by a location known to the ancient Romans as Kattigara, possibly Hangzhou (China) or Óc Eo (Vietnam). My research raises the possibility of Kattigara being located in the vicinity of the Korea Bay, based on a comparison of geographical landmarks such as the river’s mouth and cape. Other possibilities may involve Suvarṇabhūmi and a town called Zabai (Óc Eo). Though geographic recognition of Ptolemaic toponyms has since disappeared, their graphic information is still acknowledged and carries some influence in Southeast Asia, including in maps compiled by European and Arab cartographers in the 12th-16th centuries. These maps are a blend of Ptolemaic place-names and navigational information of their ages, visualising an imaginary continent of Southeast Asia. My presentation will illustrate research on the identification of cartographic information of Ptolemy’s India beyond the Ganges and Chinese lands as the basis for the study of ancient Southeast Asian maps.

Source: A New Interpretation on the Eastern Limit of Ptolemy’s World Map and its Influence on European Worldview in the Evolution of Southeast Asian Mapping. A talk by Trongjai Hutangkura

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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