A Crowd-sourced Translation for a Mysterious Map Rug
A Middle-Eastern copy of the famous 'serio-comic' map of Europe, with the female figures more modestly dressed
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
This rug would really tie any map-lover's room together. It is the product of two venerable map-making traditions, one eastern, the other western.
Since at least the time of the Soviet occupation (1979-'89), Afghanistan is the source of so-called 'war rugs': carpets depicting the instruments of modern warfare rather than ancient geometric patterns (see #395).
This particular rug fits into that tradition – except that it appears to be much, much older. The image it copies is one of the iterations of the famous 'serio-comic' maps that were popularised by Fred W. Rose and translated across Europe in the decades preceding World War I (See #521).
These maps showed animate versions of European nations, variously trampling, shoving and strangling each other. This rug is an almost identical copy of the Fred W. Rose map. Its main feature is Russia as an octopus, stretching out its tentacles towards Central Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East.
Spain and Portugal are recognisably cast in the same awkward position across the Iberian peninsula. France is represented by a female form rather than the moustachioed gentleman in the Rose map, but this version of Marianne seems to be wearing a Muslim headscarf rather than a Phrygian cap. The maiden representing the Austro-Hungarian Empire is no longer bare-chested, and also more modestly dressed.
This map appeared here on Reddit's Mapporn section, without further indication of source or context. Who can offer a translation for the words on the rug in Arabic script – and/or offer an indication of its provenance, age and motivation?
UPDATE (16 December 2017) – Below some more information on the content of the map/rug. Thanks all contributors!
Tom R., of Iranian descent, says the writing on the map is Persian as used before the 1950s, and suspects the map dates from 1920s Iran. “The writing in the box at the bottom corner says: Map of Europe before the war of 1914. (=1322 in the Islamic lunar calendar)”. Some other observations by Tom:
- “Although there are at least two words in Arabic on the map (بحر = sea and سنه = year) rather than their Persian equivalents (دریا and سال), I'm 100% sure the language is Persian. A large number of Arabic words were used regularly in Persian, and many still are. These two words are among those that were replaced in both spoken and written Persian by an Academy appointed by Reza Shah”. Reza Shah Pahlavi was the Shah of Iran from 1925 to 1941.
- “Two specific points that prove the language is not Arabic. One is the word نقشه (map) in the box, which is not Arabic. Second, and this can be missed easily: the Persian word for 'Norway' comes from its french pronunciation as نروژ which has as its last letter ژ which is one of four letters that do not exist in Arabic”.
- “I think the source for this map was another one than the one you've put in the post, because aside from the changes in the figures that you pointed out, the writings are not exactly equivalent either. For example: the carpet specifies the body of water between France and Britain as the 'Sea of Manche'”. The English Channel is called 'La Manche' in French – pointing to a French version of this map as the probable source for this one.
Jordan Toy concurs that the writing is in Persian, adding that “it looks like water features are in black and countries are in red”. Some translations:
- “Between France and Spain, you have Bay of Biscay (خلیج بیسکی), which looks just like it on the rug”.
- “The octopus is Russia (روسیه), which you can see in red text”.
- “The Baltic Sea is shown as بالتیک, the Adriatic Sea is shown tilted (almost upside down) as آدریاتیک”.
- “Germany is shown as آلمان”.
- “The big black script on the bottom (مدیترانه ای) means the Mediterranean”.
Philippe L. also tried his hand at translating the main elements of the map, and produced this annotated version.
He agrees that the map is in Farsi (Persian), and offers the following observations:
- “Most of the names are translations of the countries or seas. There are some capitals (London, for instance and not England)”.
- “The name for the Mediterranean derives from 'mediterranean', whereas in Egyptian Arabic it would be called the 'White Sea'”.
- “The label for Caspian Sea, the first word (بحر = bahr) means sea, while the second word looks like "خزر" (khazar). According to Arabic wikipedia, this was its name in the Middle Ages. And according to English wikipedia, it's its Turkish name as well”.
- “Spain is labelled by the name of its inhabitants ('Spanish') rather than the country name”.
- “Austria is written as 'Autrich', after the French version of the country name (Autriche), while in Arabic its name is 'Nemsa' – derived from Russian”.
Got more? Send your input to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strange Maps #874
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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