from the world's big
Mapping the frequency of common toponyms opens window on Britain's 'deep history'.
- A place name is more than a name – it's a historical record of the name-givers.
- By examining some of the most common toponyms, Britain's 'deep history' is revealed.
- See where Danes, Welsh, and Anglo-Saxons stamped their name on the land.
Washington DC is a place named after a person who was named after a place. This is Washington Old Hall, the ancestral home of George Washington, in the northern English town of Washington.
Image: Public domain
Giving a location a name is a possessive act. It transforms an 'anywhere', a random space, into a 'somewhere', a certain place. A place with meaning, not just for the name-givers, also for later generations. Because place names are sticky. They can survive for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. And even if today's toponym, worn with use, sounds different and lost its original meaning, it still remains a 'vector of trans-generational communication'.
In isolation, each toponym is like an archaeological dig – hiding multiple layers beneath a well-trodden exterior. In context, surprising toponymical patterns emerge. As in these maps by Helen McKenzie. She's disassembled British place names to examine the frequency of some of their most common constituents. They reveal deep history hiding in plain sight, on countless road signs across the UK.
Denmark's footprint in England
The toponymic suffix -by is most prevalent in the area around the Humber.
Image: Helen McKenzie, reproduced with kind permission
Take -by (or -bie). It's one of the most common suffixes in place names throughout England, but also Scotland and Wales. Familiar examples include Grimsby and Whitby, on the North Sea coast; Derby inland, Formby on the Irish Sea coast and Lockerbie in Scotland.
There are hundreds of other examples, and they are among the most lasting relics of Scandinavian influence in Britain. By in Old Norse signified a farmstead or village. In modern Scandinavian languages, a 'by' still means village or city. In English, the word has also given rise to the terms 'by-election' and 'by-laws' – although pronounced differently than the suffix.
As the map shows, the suffix is most prevalent in the area around the Humber, and northern England in general. This is the core of what was once known as the Danelaw, a large swathe of northern and eastern England that was under Danish rule for about 80 years, until the expulsion of Eric Bloodaxe from Northumbria in the year 954.
But 'by' also occurs in Wales, as far south as Cornwall and as high north as central Scotland – a testament to the scale of Scandinavian involvement in Britain.
The valleys of Wales, and beyond
The green, green valleys of south Wales.
Image: Helen McKenzie, reproduced with kind permission
The anglicised version is 'coombe', which gives an indication of how to pronounce what looks like three consonants in a row. As the Welsh word for 'valley', it stands to reason that this toponym is most prevalent in the valley-rich south of Wales. Examples include Cwmbran, Cwmafan and Cwmfelinfach.
As for the comparative antiquity of British languages, Welsh is the much older rival of English. The post-Roman, pre-English inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic antecedent of Welsh. They were pushed west by the invading Anglo-Saxons. A telling – but disputed – piece of toponymic evidence is the Welsh word for England, Lloegr, which some say means 'lost lands'.
Better evidence are the many Celtic-influenced place names throughout England, including such well-known toponyms as Dover or Manchester. Focusing on Cwm and its anglicised variant, we find pockets throughout southern, central and northern England, as well as in Scotland.
Tons of -tuns all over Britain
The area of central England around Merseyside has the heaviest concentration of -tons and -tuns in Britain.
Image: Helen McKenzie, reproduced with kind permission
'Tun' is an old English word for enclosure that is cognate with Dutch 'tuin' ('garden') and German 'Zaun' ('fence') – for more on that, see #615 – and by way of 'ton' gave rise to 'town'. Perhaps the world's most famous example is Washington: the U.S. capital's name derives from the country's first president, whose name comes from the eponymous town in northern England. Its name, in turn, probably originated as Hwæsingatūn, the estate (tūn) of the descendants (inga) of Hwæsa – an old English first name that means "wheat sheaf".
The Anglo-Saxons planted countless tuns/tons throughout England, with the second-highest concentration in the northeast, around Washington. The highest concentration, though, is centered on the part of central England towards Merseyside (Liverpool and environs), with Bolton, Everton, Preston and Warrington some of the best known examples.
But really, there are tuns and tons all over Britain, with distant areas of Scotland and Wales the only exceptions. Note the concentration in southwest Wales: southern Pembrokeshire, once known as Little-England-beyond-Wales.
Maps reproduced with kind permission of Helen McKenzie. For a few more maps on toponymy and a lot more on other subjects (including emploment density in Hackney and otter sightings in the UK), check out Ms McKenzie's Instagram, at helen.makes.maps.
Strange Maps #1037
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
Monuments are under attack in America. How far should we go in re-examining our history?
- Historical American monuments and sculptures are under attack by activists.
- The monuments are accused of celebrating racist history.
- Toppling monuments is a process that often happens in countries but there's a danger of bias.
Mob pulling down the statue of George III at Bowling Green, New York City, 9 July 1776.
Painting by William Walcutt. 1854.
People in Rome tear down the statues of Mussolini. July 25, 1943.
Photo by Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images.
Statue of Lenin in Berlin, Germany On November 13, 1991.
Photo by Patrick PIEL/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Statue of Lenin taken down in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. October 2012.
Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Artifacts uncovered in southeast Asia offer clues on early complex human cultures.
- Archaeologists discovered a trove of bone tools used roughly 48,000 years ago in a Sri Lankan cave.
- Uncovered artifacts include the earliest known bow-and-arrow devices found out of Africa, weaving utensils, and decorative beads chiseled from the tips of marine snail shells.
- The findings underline the necessity of looking for early Homo sapien innovation in regions outside of the grasslands and coasts of Africa or Europe, where much of the research has been focused.
New discoveries<p>The study was led by Michelle Langley, an archaeologist at Australia's Griffith University, along with other researchers from Griffith, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH), and the Sri Lankan Government's Department of Archaeology.</p><p>The scientists examined tools and artifacts used between 48,000 and 4,000 years ago that were discovered in the Fa-Hien Lena cave site located in Sri Lanka's southwest tropical forests, an area that has become one of the most important archaeological sites in South Asia since the 1980s. The assemblage of artifacts included 130 of the earliest known bone-arrow tips found out of Africa along with 29 utensils likely used to make clothing or bags. Also excavated were decorative beads chiseled from the tips of marine snail shells and the world's oldest known beads made of red ochre — an ancient pigment used for a variety of things from body paint to sunscreen.</p><p>Archaeologists believe that these tools correspond to four phases of ancient human habitation of the site. Using radiocarbon technology to date thirty items from the site, researchers were able to create a timeline detailing how the tools evolved to become more sophisticated over time.</p><p>"Most of these tools were made out of monkey bone, and many of them appear to have been carefully shaped into arrowheads," <a href="https://experts.griffith.edu.au/8914-michelle-langley" target="_blank">Langley</a> told Tim Vernimmen of <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/06/tools-human-early-migration-rainforest-sri-lanka/" target="_blank">National Geographic</a>. "They are too small and light to have been spearheads, which need some weight to gain force, and too heavy and blunt to have been blow darts."</p><p>On close inspection, the size, forms and fractures found on many of the bone points led the researchers to believe that they were used as arrow tips for bow-and-arrow hunting to catch swift and nimble rainforest prey like monkeys and other tree-dwelling creatures. The arrow points increased in length over time for the purpose of hunting larger mammals like deer. If the researcher's conclusions are correct, this finding marks the earliest definitive proof of high-powered projectile hunting in a tropical rainforest environment.</p><p>Additionally, the team uncovered a range of other bone and tooth tools used for scraping and piercing. They were likely used for making nets and working animal skins or plant fibers in the tropical environment.</p><p>"Evidence for the construction of nets is extremely scarce in artifacts many thousands of years old, making this aspect of the Fa-Hien Lena assemblage a startling find," Langley said in <a href="https://news.griffith.edu.au/2020/06/15/discovery-of-oldest-bow-and-arrow-technology-outside-africa/" target="_blank">a Griffith University press release</a>. Because this wasn't a cold region, the authors opine that the clothing made with the assemblage of tools may have been used for protection from insect-borne diseases.</p><p>Other tools discovered at the site were identified as implements probably associated with freshwater fishing.</p>
Out of Africa and into the rainforest<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQxMDExMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTQ3NjQ4N30.6JVTKeCHRhzvg5lejtnsxf-2y0n1pHAch0MrxJSre1Y/img.jpg?width=980" id="56032" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8a86a57e2bb25a4caa3d1777fbcd060b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="assortment of bone arrowheads and tools" />
"Bone projectile points (A to H) and scrapers (I to K) from Fa-Hien Lena. (A and B) Geometric bipoints, with (B) coming from phase D context 146; (C and F) hilted bipoint, red arrows indicate cut notches; (D and E) hilted unipoints, red arrows and red circle indicate wear indicating fixed hafting; (G and H) symmetrical bipoints"
Langley et al., 2020<p>Before the great migration out of Africa, smaller groups of humans began to leave the continent between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago eventually migrating into South Asia. These findings offer clues as to how our ancient ancestors adapted to diverse, precarious environments during their global expansion, such as the tropical rainforest. Though the early humans of South Asia likely didn't make their abode in the densely vegetated forest right away, opting instead for the coast, their decedents eventually would. And that move required some nifty new survival technology. </p><p>The researchers pointed out that their discoveries of these ancient tools underline the necessity of looking for early <em>Homo sapien</em> innovation in regions outside of the grasslands and coasts of Africa, or Europe where much of the research has been focused.</p><p>"[T]his traditional focus has meant that other parts of Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Americas have often been sidelined in discussions of the origins of material culture, such as novel projectile hunting methods or cultural innovations associated with our species," <a href="https://news.griffith.edu.au/2020/06/15/discovery-of-oldest-bow-and-arrow-technology-outside-africa/" target="_blank">said Patrick Roberts</a> from MPI-SHH. </p>
Complex human societies<p>The shell beads that the team found indicate that the ancient forest dwellers traded with the populations that stayed along the coast. The beads were rounded and pierced, suggesting that they were strung. Earlier dated beads (around 8,700 years old) were made from red ochre nodules. The ancient jewelry is gauged to be similar in age to other "social signaling" materials found in Eurasia and Southeast Asia, according to the authors, which was around 45,000 years ago. This highlights the importance of establishing social connections for these early people through trade and symbol. </p><p>"Together, these artifacts reveal a rich human culture in the tropics of South Asia which was creating and utilizing complex hunting and social technologies to not only survive, but thrive, in demanding rainforest environments," concluded study co-author Patrick Roberts, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Queensland.</p>
8 powerful voices share what it's like to be black in America, and why white people must break the racist status quo.
- Black communities have been telling the nation, for more than a century, that they have been targeted, beaten, falsely accused and killed by the police and other institutions meant to protect them.
- They have not been believed until recently, when the rise in camera phones and social media finally enabled them show and disseminate proof.
- Even after the video of George Floyd's death on May 25, 2020, there remains defensiveness and denial among white Americans and institutions—a defensiveness that prevents change to the root of the problem: systemic racism. In this video, eight powerful voices share perspectives on being black in America, and why white inaction and white politeness must end.
New book focuses on some of the world's most peculiar borderlines.
- Borders have a simple job: separate different areas from each other.
- But they can get complicated fast, as shown by a new book.
- Here are a few of the bizarre borders it focuses on.
Simple in theory<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM4Mjk1NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTMyMzk1NX0.Qrzz1NidF-34YifuyHPPNg-cw1Fbd1_6iX6O7zGBF3Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="49560" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cdc1c568091fd1c8d52555f6ee96752b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bThe island of M\u00e4rket has a strange border dividing it into a Swedish and a Finnish half. Why? Because of a misplaced lighthouse." />
The island of Märket has a strange border dividing it into a Swedish and a Finnish half. Why? Because of a misplaced Finnish lighthouse (shown on the western half of the island).
Image reproduced by kind permission of HarperCollins<p>What separates us humans from other animals? The use of tools or language? The invention of God or music? The ability to blush? (According to Mark Twain, we're the only animal that can – or needs to). The jury is still out. For a swifter verdict, ask what separates humans from each other. Quite literally, it's borders.</p><p><span></span>Those borders can be the subtle separators of culture and class; the more tangible distinctions of race and gender; or the physical demarcations between this country and that. The job description for political borders is simple and straightforward enough: draw a line between areas with different rules (and rulers). But, as shown in a new book, those lines are not always straight and simple. </p><p>For reasons geographical, dynastic, military or otherwise, things on the ground can get quite complex quite fast. In "<a href="https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780008351779/the-atlas-of-unusual-borders-discover-intriguing-boundaries-territories-and-geographical-curiosities/" target="_blank" style="">The Atlas of Unusual Borders</a>," map enthusiast Zoran Nikolic zooms in on some of the world's most egregious examples of border weirdness. Here are a few samples from the recently published book. <br></p>
The Cypriot puzzle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM4Mjk1NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDg5OTYyMX0.hx59ZmkR_zenzDGZPA-M25fhu7OXBgXfSjgqba9z050/img.png?width=980" id="6dcfc" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b9c4e878a7b1c682b905b4462c2b6791" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Ideally, \u200bCyprus shouldn't have any internal borders at all." />
Ideally, Cyprus shouldn't have any internal borders at all. Then, history happened.
Image reproduced by kind permission of HarperCollins<p>Cyprus is a good example of the distance between theory and practice. As an island nation, it shouldn't even have land borders. Yet the small Mediterranean country is riven with borders, establishing four different political entities.</p><p><span></span>The oldest Cypriot border only goes back to 1960, when the island gained its independence from Britain. The former colonial overlord retained two large military bases, covering a total of 3 percent of the island's territory. Today, Akrotiri and Dhekelia – strategically close to the Middle East – remain under British control. </p><p><span></span>But while Akrotiri, near the city of Limassol, is a single, contiguous lump of land, Dhekelia, the other 'Sovereign Base Area', seems designed to make life difficult for the Cypriots: a tentacle pokes through in the direction of the island's eastern shore, almost touching Varosia, a former jet set hotspot just south of Famagusta, now a dystopian no man's land. The main body of Dhekelia is dotted with numerous exclaves of Cypriot sovereignty, containing two entire villages and one power station.</p><p><span></span>Dystopian no man's land? That goes back to 1974, when Turkey invaded, to help Turkish Cypriots set up their own, internationally unrecognised state in the north of the island. The as yet unresolved nature of that conflict is symbolised by the Green Line, separating the official, Greek-majority south of the island from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – recognised only by Turkey itself. That Green Line is not actually a line, but a UN-administered buffer zone, wide enough to contain the island's <a href="https://www.worldabandoned.com/nicosia-airport" target="_blank">former international airport</a>, for example. </p><p>The 1974 conflict has also stranded a Turkish-Cypriot coastal town south of the line. Erenköy (in Turkish; Kokkina in Greek), in the west, is a ghost port, a small Turkish garrison its only occupants. In the east, the Green Line intersects with the already complicated borders of Dhekelia, cutting off a large part of Greek Cyprus from its 'mainland'. However, traffic with the rest of Greek Cyprus is possible via Dhekelia, ensuring a steady flow of tourists to Ayia Napa, the exclave's main resort. <br></p>
Four Corners Canada<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM4Mjk1OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxODU2NjE4MH0.F8WNdQQ30ZwOtXPld9DHo97ZHi-rhYUi3uB6X_QP2aY/img.png?width=980" id="00fee" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f020b8c05f36872ba2935c07261404f8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="'Four Corners Canada': \u200bNorth America's other quadripoint, where the Northwest Territory, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and Manitoba meet." />
'Four Corners Canada': North America's other quadripoint, where the Northwest Territory, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and Manitoba meet.
Image reproduced by kind permission of HarperCollins<p>Quadripoints, where four political entities touch in a single point, are rare. The last international one was extinguished after World War I. There is a tangle of borders in southern Africa that comes close – but misses the mark by about 300 meters. At the sub-national level, the United States has its famous Four Corners. After a serious trek through the desert, tourists arrive at what must be one of the loneliest attractions in North America: the monument to the meeting point of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. </p><p><span></span>Well, that attraction has a potential competitor far north. On April 1 1999, when Canada created the territory of Nunavut, it also created a new quadripoint, where the new territory of Nunavut meets the now reduced Northwest Territories, plus the prairie provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. '<a href="https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Four_Corners_(Canada)" target="_blank">Four Corners Canada</a>' already has its monument: the metal marker on the (former) Northwest-Saskatchewan-Manitoba tripoint. </p><p>However, pending an official land survey, some doubt remains as to whether the legal definition of Nunavut's border actually aligns with reality. Furthermore, 'Four Corners Canada' is located 1,200 km (725 miles) north by northwest from Winnipeg, which makes it vastly more remote than 'Four Corners USA'. So it's doubtful whether North America's newest quadripoint will ever become a tourist attraction. <br></p>
Looters and poachers<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM4Mjk2MC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzIzNjczMX0.TPcNF6wC6byuiibkEaa1Xv2ljpHG1Z3sxBgtiYr_jAQ/img.png?width=980" id="c4ada" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="605689dc8256447af08e7c4c3e129c30" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bSo small and insignificant is this Russian exclave that it is left off most maps. But don't count on Russia abandoning it." />
So small and insignificant is this Russian exclave that it is left off most maps. But don't count on Russia abandoning it.
Image reproduced by kind permission of HarperCollins<p>Russia's most famous exclave is Kaliningrad, the northern half of what used to be East Prussia. After the disintegration of the USSR and the independence of the Baltic states, it got separated from Mother Russia – yet another burden for the fledgling post-communist state. Amid the confusion and economic collapse of the early 1990s, there was even some talk of just selling it back to Germany. <a href="https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2014/03/20/if-russia-gets-crimea-should-germany-get-kaliningrad-a33194" target="_blank">No more</a>. A resurgent Russia will no longer tolerate territorial shrinkage. The <a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/663-nil-crimeariver-painting-putin-pouting" target="_blank">annexation of the Crimea</a> was a symbol of the turning tide. </p><p><span></span>So don't expect Russia to give up this little exclave either. Even though, unlike Kaliningrad, it has no strategic value. Sankovo-Medvezhye is a small fragment of Russia misplaced just across its border with Belarus – 35 km east of Gomel, 530 km southwest of Moscow. The two small villages making up the exclave were abandoned after Chernobyl. The population at present is zero. </p><p>Most Russians have never even heard of this particular exclave, and it's so small that it's left off most maps. The only people remotely interested in Sankovo-Medvezhye are looters, who by now have stripped both villages of almost anything of value; and poachers, who use the exclave as a sanctuary both from the Belarus authorities, who can't go there; and the Russian ones, who don't bother. <br></p>
Hamburg-by-the-Sea<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM4Mjk2My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTMzNTgxOX0.fGzTtjTB4LRtpqY19kGjtn__KZGWSxCtSis9yhLLP_Q/img.png?width=980" id="a3fbb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f2e10c4ed7f2fb78cb707fec98fd42a1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bBremen has a coastal exclave? Then Hamburg wants one too!" />
Bremen has a coastal exclave? Then Hamburg wants one too!
Image reproduced by kind permission of HarperCollins<p>Germany is composed of 16 <em>Bundesländer</em> – federal states that typically are big enough to be a small European country on their own, like Bavaria or Brandenburg. Three, however, are Singapore-sized city-states: the capital Berlin, and the North Sea port cities of Hamburg and Bremen – the latter being smallest of all <em>Länder</em>. </p><p><span></span>Those two rival states are mirror images of each other: proud and ancient trading centers, landlocked in or between larger states, accessible to seagoing vessels via their respective rivers. Bremen has the Weser, Hamburg the Elbe. But zoom in further, as this map does, and they're even more alike. </p><p><span></span>At the 1815 Vienna Congress, Bremen obtained direct access to the sea in the shape of an exclave called Bremerhaven – big enough to be visible on most maps of Germany. (Actually, Bremen consists of three separate bits of land: Fehmoor is separated from Bremerhaven by a narrow strip of Lower Saxony. But let's not get distracted).</p><p>What's not so visible, is that Hamburg too has its own sea enclave. In fact, it has three: islands so small they usually don't appear on any map. Thinking it would need a coastal toehold to develop a deep-draft port, Hamburg acquired <a href="https://www.hamburg-tourism.de/das-ist-hamburg/stadtteile/neuwerk/" target="_blank">Neuwerk</a> (current population: 40) and its uninhabited sister island of Scharhörn after the Second World War. </p><p>Those deep-draft plans were eventually shelved, due to cost and environmental protests. A third island, Nigehörn, was created artificially to protect the bird sanctuary on Scharhörn. The three islands are still part of Hamburg, 120 km (75 miles) further up the Elbe, but they are now the anchors of a national park rather than a busy port. <br></p>
From no man's land to microstate<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM4Mjk2NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzczMDQxMX0.r6i3Sm4dsHlZ4fj9SjbHCQs18NSlBP0l1ohXq_z7Pt4/img.png?width=980" id="c3a97" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="142b1ed2c886bf272dee38beda8f50b4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="In a region fought over so bitterly, Siga Island presents a remarkable exception: it is claimed by neither Croatia nor Serbia." />
In a region fought over so bitterly, Siga Island presents a remarkable exception: it is claimed by neither Croatia nor Serbia.
Image reproduced by kind permission of HarperCollins<p>Never set a border in a river. The river will shift, and then you're stuck with a mess made by two lines meandering all over each other. For some prime examples, check out the U.S. states who trusted the Mississippi to provide a neat and easy demarcation between them. </p><p><span></span>It gets worse when international borders are involved, as is the case between Croatia and Serbia. Of course, that border wasn't international until Yugoslavia bloodily tore itself apart in the 1990s. Much of that border is formed by the Danube. And both countries have different opinions of how that river should be used to demarcate the border. </p><p><span></span>Right down the middle, Serbia says. Following old cadastral borders, Croatia maintains. Those cadastral borders follow a previous course of the river, which is why Croatia claims 10,000 hectares on the 'Serbian' side of the river. It also explains why Croatia doesn't claim the 2,000-hectare Siga Island on 'its' side of the Danube – an area not claimed by Serbia either.</p><p><span></span>And there you have it: terra nullius. That's legalese for No Man's Land. However, like nature, geopolitics abhors a vacuum. Rather than wait or both countries to come to a compromise, various parties have sought to lay claim to the grey zone between them, and proclaimed it to be the Free Republic of Liberland, or the Kingdom of Enclava. </p><p>How will this end? While our hearts are with the micro-nationalists trying to do something new here, attempts at secession have generally not gone down well in this part of the world. Get ready to migrate your dreams to cyberspace, Liberlanders. (<a href="https://liberland.org/en/" target="_blank">OK, check!</a>)<br></p>
Room(s) for the Resistance<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM4Mjk2OC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTQzOTg3N30.zivB3Dz8jm0fywQ8jlxdGceWKQnWWATDZNrmQRrfelc/img.png?width=980" id="21848" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0714f6a2d5bbf09ab14dd0a8b0e19c00" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bDuring the Second World War, Hotel Arbez could simultaneously host both German solders (on the French side) and members of the French Resistance (on the Swiss side)." />
During the Second World War, Hotel Arbez could simultaneously host both German solders (on the French side) and members of the French Resistance (on the Swiss side).
Image reproduced by kind permission of HarperCollins<p>About 30 km (20 miles) north of Geneva, La Cure is a small village slap bang on the Franco-Swiss border. Quite literally so: half the village is French, the other half Swiss. The same goes for a bunch of buildings in town: the international border runs right through it. </p><p>One of those is the Hotel Arbez, and while that curiosity might have been a selling point for some of its earlier guests – the border passes through the double bed in the honeymoon suite, for example – during the Second World War, it became a major geopolitical fault line. While France was occupied by the Germans, Switzerland stayed neutral, independent and unoccupied.</p><p>It is said that during the war, on several occasions the French side of the hotel hosted German soldiers and officers, dining on the fine fare of the hotel's kitchen; while members of the French Resistance stayed in rooms on the Swiss side. Naturally, if the Germans had caught the Resistance fighters on the 'French' side of the hotel, it would have ended in an arrest, or worse: a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2Xu6T5gIns" target="_blank">BBC comedy</a>. But as long as they stayed on the Swiss side, they were untouchable – a very practical benefit of Switzerland's famed neutrality. <span></span></p>
A republic of monks<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM4Mjk2OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDA2NDM2Mn0.XoQaDkyZs-1Xo-cujHSeTDNF_d3v_UyipQDWpDazjPc/img.png?width=980" id="394c7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ff22c40777660427fb02397fa9bd0e47" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Athos is a monastic republic, with some peculiar rules. Only men are allowed - exceptions are made for female cats and chickens." />
Athos is a monastic republic, with some peculiar rules. Only men are allowed - exceptions are made for female cats and chickens.
Image reproduced by kind permission of HarperCollins<p>Greece is not one country, but two. The more familiar one, simply called 'Greece', is a medium-sized modern European democracy with its capital in Athens. The other is a religion-based microstate on the easternmost of the three peninsulas of Chalkidiki – the only country in the world inhabited only by men. Its name? <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mXl8C4-M_4" target="_blank">Mount Athos</a>. </p><p><span></span>Named after its highest peak, Athos is sometimes also simply called 'Holy Mountain', because of the 20 monasteries and 2,000 monks on its territory. The monks have been here since the 8th century and have survived centuries of war and occupation (not the exact same monks, obviously). The Greek constitution recognises the Monastic State as a self-governing territory of the Greek state. The governor it sends to Athos is merely an observer. </p><p>For Athos is run by a religious council, made up of one representative per monastery. It has an executive body of four members (the 'Holy Administration'), headed by a CEO (the 'protos'). The monasteries attract monks from all over the orthodox world; residence at Athos gets them automatic Greek citizenship. In order not to disturb the contemplative life of the monks, no females are allowed on Athos. This includes female animals, with two exceptions: hens (to lay eggs) and cats (to catch mice; although one suspects the mice are co-eds too). <br></p>
Where Tasmania meets Victoria<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM4Mjk3MC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODE5MzUzNH0.7Yp1jG6Mu_s3oExba9OK1cY06LXAvIw3gwzrkscMJug/img.png?width=980" id="7956c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ad4fae249406dc801ce166f4a91f5fe" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bTasmania is Australia's only island state, yet it does share a land border with the rest of the country." />
Tasmania is Australia's only island state, yet it does share a land border with the rest of the country.
Image reproduced by kind permission of HarperCollins<p>A small island beyond the island-continent's south-eastern shore, Tasmania is Australia's afterthought; Down Under's own Down Under. It is the only state of Australia that is also an island. And yet Tasmania manages to share a land border with Victoria, the southernmost state on the Australian mainland. </p><p><span></span>It does so entirely by accident. When Tasmania's sea border with Victoria was drawn at a latitude of 39°12' South, it was thought the line crossed open water only. Upon closer inspection, however, the line did cross a tiny island, which an earlier survey had misplaced somewhat. </p><p>Too small and barren to be of any other interest, the rock, originally called North East Islet, was rechristened Boundary Islet, and its sole raison d'être now is to be a geopolitical footnote: the only land border of the island state of Tasmania, and the shortest of all land borders between Australian states: all of 85 m (93 yards). <br></p>
Asterix in the North-West Atlantic<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM4Mjk3Mi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTU1Nzk4NX0.tYI0GZmKkN_83hodOmUFSKmQWBgExbjBUPB0Oy2gRpk/img.png?width=980" id="80ecb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="92e31b6bb260da7681bcfe60ba248744" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bSt Pierre and Miquelon is the last surviving fragment of what was once the vast North American dominion of 'New France'." />
St Pierre and Miquelon is the last surviving fragment of what was once the vast North American dominion of 'New France'.
Image reproduced by kind permission of HarperCollins<p>Until the mid-18th century, it was the French who were winning North America. They controlled New Orleans in the south, Acadia in the north, and a vast, unbroken stretch of territory in between. Then the Brits kicked them out of Canada, courtesy of the French and Indian War (1754-63), and the Americans bought the remainder off Napoleon in the Louisiana Purchase (1803).</p><p>But did the French give up all their possessions in North America? No! Like Asterix's Gallic village that bravely holds out against the Roman invasion, there is one part of the formerly vast dominion of 'New France' that remains French to this day – St Pierre and Miquelon, two small islands in the North-West Atlantic, 25 km (15 miles) off the coast of Newfoundland (and 3,800 km - 2,350 miles - west of the Metropolitan France). </p><p>If it isn't weird enough to find a slice of France stuck on Canada's eastern seaboard, a look at the territory's Exclusive Economic Zone raises eyebrows even further. The EEZ is the part of the sea over which a state has special rights (without having total sovereignty). The size and shape of St Pierre and Miquelon's EEZ was long an object of dispute between Canada and France. In 1992, an international panel granted the islands the EEZ you see on this map. Extremely elongated, the 200 km (125 miles) long, 10 km (6 miles) wide zone has been compared to a key, a mushroom and (perhaps inevitably) a French <em>baguette</em>. <br></p><p>The reason given for the shape is that it would provide a corridor for French ships to have unhindered access to St Pierre and Miquelon from international waters. However, Canada later exercised its right to extend its own EEZ, stranding the baguette within Canadian waters. Game over, you might think; but only if you're not French.</p><p><br></p><p><em>Zoran Nikolic: </em><a href="https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780008351779/the-atlas-of-unusual-borders-discover-intriguing-boundaries-territories-and-geographical-curiosities/" target="_blank">The Atlas of Unusual Borders</a><em>, published by <a href="https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/" target="_blank">HarperCollins</a>. </em></p><p><span></span>Images reproduced with kind permission.</p><p><strong><span></span>Strange Maps #1033</strong></p><p><strong><span></span></strong><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em></p>