Two remarkable etymological maps show twin forces at work throughout human history.
- These two maps capture the centrifugal and centripetal forces at work throughout human history.
- See how the Proto-Indo-European word for 'brother' spreads and changes, in both sound and meaning.
- And how the Proto-Germanic word for 'stranger' now is a familiar fixture of European toponymy.
Name that animal (in Proto-Indo-European)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3b6be896ff2aac19ff166ee25bbd4074"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/7epZo_BQFqA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>What is the difference between a brother and a stranger? Distance and time. As both grow, what is familiar becomes less so. As they decrease, what is strange becomes familiar. </p><p>These two maps neatly capture those two driving forces of human history – centrifugal and centripetal – via the rather unexpected medium of etymology. The first one goes back all the way to Proto-Indo-European, and the video above gives a hint of what that may well have sounded like.<br></p>
Brothers, friars, buddies<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ4MTA5NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTA5OTQ1OX0.JAPB7ZuOI_gwNELnPIa-podL2rm2ZlL26OOXMdx9Jf4/img.png?width=980" id="52f50" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4e1947a158a36bc1fa69e3566f49fb0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map showing the spread over time and place of the Proto-Indo-European word for 'brother'." data-width="2200" data-height="1700" />
Map showing the spread over time and place of the Proto-Indo-European word for 'brother'.
Image by u/Virble, found here. Reproduced with kind permission.<p>The first one shows the spread of the word Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word for 'brother' across an area stretching from Iceland to Bangladesh. Although it may no longer seem obvious to speakers of Icelandic and Bengali, the word they use to refer to their mother's (other) son derives from the same source. </p><p>We have no direct record of PIE. It has been reconstructed entirely from the similarities between the languages of the Indo-European family, based on theories of how they have changed over time.</p><p>The most common hypothesis is that PIE was spoken from 4500 to 2500 BC on the Pontic-Caspian steppes, the grasslands stretching from Romania across Ukraine into southern Russia. Its speakers then migrated east and west, so PIE eventually fragmented into a family of languages spoken across Europe, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. </p><p>Those languages may be mutually unintelligible now, but the similarities between certain basic words still points to a common origin. And that's how we've been able to reconstruct <em>bʰréh₂tēr,</em> PIE for 'brother'.</p><p>Via Proto-Balto-Slavic, this turns into <em>brat</em> (in Russian and all other Slavic languages). Proto-Germanic is the intermediate to modern German <em>Bruder</em>, Scandinavian <em>bror</em>, Dutch <em>broer,</em> and English <em>brother</em>. Via Proto-Italic, we get Latin <em>frater</em>, and that gives similar-sounding words in French (<em>frère</em>), Italian (<em>fratello</em>), and Romanian (<em>frate</em>). </p><p>Things get interesting in Iberia. The local languages use another word entirely to describe brotherly kinship: it's <em>hermano</em> (in Spanish) or <em>irmão</em> (in Portuguese). This derives from the second word of the Latin phrase <em>frater germanus</em>, which means 'brother of the same blood' (literally: 'of the same germ'). The phrase was used to distinguish between 'blood brothers' and brothers by adoption, a common occurrence in Roman times.</p><p><em>Frater</em> does have a descendant in the Iberian languages, but <em>fraile</em> (Spanish) and <em>frade</em> (Portuguese) only mean 'brother' in the ecclesiastical sense – similar to the English term <em>friar</em>. The change in meaning is indicated by the dotted line across the Pyrenees. Another dotted line on the Greek border denotes another shift in meaning: in Proto-Hellenic, <em>*</em><em>phrātēr</em> means 'citizen' rather than 'brother'. </p><p>On its march east, the PIE word for 'brother' transforms into Proto-Indo-Iranian, then branches off into distinct Proto-Iranian and Sanskrit strands. The Proto-Iranian (<em>*bráHtā</em>) radiates slightly to the west and more vigorously to the east; the modern Persian word (<em>barâdar</em>) makes it into Turkish as a loan word, but again, the meaning changes. In Turkish, <em>kardeş</em> is what you call your little brother (or little sister), while an older brother is called <em>abi</em>. <em>Birader</em> means 'brother' in a more symbolic sense, as 'buddy' or 'comrade'. In Hindi and throughout the subcontinent, <em>bhai</em> and slight variations are the commonest word to express the brotherly bond. </p><p>While the Icelander and Bangladeshi might have some trouble recognising the other's word for 'brother', it's remarkable that PIE's original term resonates so well in so many modern languages. As one commenter (on Reddit) said: "I am now fascinated by the idea that I can just go to a random village in the middle of Afghanistan, find the oldest man in town who has never heard or seen a foreigner, and that when I say 'brother' to him with a faint Jamaican accent he will probably understand what I mean, because the word in his native language sounds almost exactly the same."<br></p>
Howdy, stranger<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ4MTA5Ni9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NzA0NDcwMH0.vBw3b-7ZSo_JTC6-yDv0oiJuF-Xcn6xYi5GiLqOEhkA/img.png?width=980" id="a6054" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f1571d1a8668cb86287efbfc8d05eb8e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bThe Proto-Germanic word for 'stranger', and its impact on the map of Europe." data-width="2220" data-height="2154" />
The Proto-Germanic word for 'stranger', and its impact on the map of Europe.
Image by u/Virble, found here. Reproduced with kind permission.<p>In other words: brotherliness can survive great distances across time and space. The second map shows the opposite: how 'stranger-ness' can persist, even in close proximity. The Proto-Germanic word for 'stranger' is <em>*walhaz</em>.</p><p>Early on, it became the default term to describe the closest 'others', as in Old Norse, where <em>Valr</em> means 'southerner' or 'Celt'. As such, it became attached to a number of southern/Celtic regions and countries, most famously Wales but also Gaul, Cornwall and Wallonia. </p><p>As the Gallic tribes were Romanised over time, the German(ic) term came to be applied to Romance speakers specifically, as for example in <em>Welschland</em>, the Swiss-German term for the French-speaking part of Switzerland. The Swiss-French term is la Romandie or la Suisse romande.</p><p>Something similar happened after the Proto-Germanic term was borrowed by Proto-Slavic. <em>Vlokh</em> came to mean 'Roman speaker', and was applied to the people (<em>Vlachs</em>, a former name for Romanians) and the region (<em>Wallachia</em>, in present-day Romania). The term <em>Vlachs</em> still applies to Romance-speaking minorities in the southern Balkans. In Polish, a variant <em>Wlochy</em> is used to describe the country the name of which in most other languages resembles 'Italy'. </p><p>The dots represent city and town names containing the term, indicating points of contact between 'us' and 'them'. These points are particularly plentiful in Britain, and in other areas of Western Europe where the friction between invading Germanic tribes and resident Roman citizens was strongest.</p><p>But while that clash of cultures persists in place names, the inhabitants of Walcheren (in the Netherlands), Wallasey (in the UK), Wallstadt (Germany), Welschbillig (France), Walshoutem (Belgium) and all the other dots on this map have stopped thinking in terms of 'us' and 'them' a long time ago. At least in terms of the 'locals'. There's plenty of other <em>walhaz</em> in the world, even if they are brothers from another mother. </p><p><br><em>Maps reproduced with kind permission of Reddit user </em><em>u/Virble. For more of his etymological maps, check out <a href="https://www.reddit.com/user/Virble/" target="_blank">this overview</a></em><em> of his Reddit contributions. </em></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1038</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.</p>
USGS's 'Unified Geologic Map of the Moon' is the definitive blueprint of the lunar surface.
- Combining old maps with new data, the USGS has produced a definitive blueprint of the lunar surface.
- The new map will help scientists and astronauts find their way around the Moon.
- NASA's aim is to land the first woman on the Moon as early as 2024.
Future missions<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cdaa1a29a7e6048bfec8a8a7e14c78ea"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uoOfOoJOSpM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Why is everybody so eager to get to Mars when the Moon is right next door? Perhaps Musk et al. are attracted by the planet's redness. Red is danger, excitement, life. By comparison, Earth's natural satellite exudes an uninvitingly pale glow.</p><p><span></span>This map will change all that. It shows the lunar surface as a riot of colors, its hemispheres two sizzling pizzas of varied and appetizing composure. There's something here for everybody's taste. Who wouldn't want a bite out of this?</p><p><span></span>Forgive the hyperbole, but whetting the appetite certainly was the intent with this 'Unified Geologic Map of the Moon'. For not only is it the first complete and uniform map of lunar surface geology, it's also an important planning instrument for future manned missions to the Moon. </p><p><span></span>The map was created by the <a href="https://www.usgs.gov/" target="_blank">U.S. Geological Survey</a>'s <a href="https://www.usgs.gov/centers/astrogeology-science-center" target="_blank">Astrogeology Science Center</a> in Flagstaff, Arizona. In collaboration with <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/" target="_blank">NASA</a> and the <a href="https://www.lpi.usra.edu/" target="_blank">Lunar and Planetary Institute</a>, it combined six 'regional' maps of the Moon made during the <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/index.html" target="_blank">Apollo</a> era (1961-1975) with input from more recent unmanned lunar missions. </p><p>This included data on the polar regions from NASA's <a href="https://lola.gsfc.nasa.gov/" target="_blank">Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter</a> (LOLA) and close-ups of the equatorial zone from the <a href="https://global.jaxa.jp/" target="_blank">Japanese Space Agency</a>'s recent <a href="http://www.kaguya.jaxa.jp/index_e.htm" target="_blank">SELENE</a> mission.<br></p>
Definitive blueprint<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzE3MjE0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTMyNjQ4M30.M-Wt4Kb6AQl_ODGQzdHN66Rj5pFDqTBL0CX7D48Ka1c/img.jpg?width=980" id="3a1c5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7b79f8acef1c972fd214d6ee56b4c0e9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bThe near (left) and far side of the Moon." data-width="960" data-height="478" />
The near (left) and far side of the Moon.
Image: NASA/GSFC/USGS - public domain<p>The result: <a href="https://astrogeology.usgs.gov/search/map/Moon/Geology/Unified_Geologic_Map_of_the_Moon_GIS?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_term=a0782f18-dace-4067-ba02-d2e232c35e2a&utm_content=&utm_campaign=usgs" target="_blank">a single, high-resolution map</a> of the entire lunar surface, at a scale of 1:5,000,000 – the definitive blueprint of the Moon's surface geology. </p><p>Of course, the surface of the Moon is not as brightly colored as these maps – according to the dozen eyewitness accounts we have, the lunar terrain is light grey in the highlands and dark grey in the 'maria' (the so-called seas), and gives the overall impression of a world made out of asphalt.</p><p>The colors on the map refer to different types of surface features, grouped together according to their age:</p><ul><li>Brown features are 'pre-Nectarian': from the Moon's origin 4.5 billion years ago, to 3.92 billion years ago.</li><li>Orange and tan are 'Nectarian' features: 3.92 to 3.85 billion years old.</li><li>Purple, blue and pink are for 'Imbrian' features: 3.85 to 3.16 billion years old.</li><li>Green is for 'Eratosthenian': 3.16 to 1.1 billion years old.</li><li>Yellow for 'Copernican': from 1.1 billion years ago to the present.</li></ul><p>The various shades of each color refer to different feature types, such as craters, plateaus, basins, 'maria', plains, massifs, and domes. The detailed map also names a lot of features on the surface, and pinpoints the locations of previous landings – manned and unmanned. </p>
Artemis 2024<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzE3MjE3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MjM4MTE0OH0.89YDHBErTyAEpm56XRz0Z7NYJyJLwL4_mvbCMeXo3NI/img.jpg?width=980" id="8c0d7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="485631bec67000e21d146c3ee4087d1e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bExcerpt of the Moon map, showing the Apollo 11 landing site (below right)." data-width="1042" data-height="708" />
Excerpt of the new Moon map, showing the Apollo 11 landing site (below right).
Image: USGS, public domain<p>This excellent map will help plan America's next excursion to the Moon. NASA's <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/artemisprogram" target="_blank">Artemis program</a> aims to land 'the first woman and the next man' on the Moon by 2024. </p><p>Ultimately, Artemis should lay the groundwork for continuous, sustainable habitation on the Moon; and help prepare the next giant leap for humanity… yes, to Mars. </p><p>Before our attention drifts off towards the Red Planet again, here are 10 things you may not have known about the Moon, just to keep you interested. </p><ul><li>The Moon is drifting away from Earth at a rate of 3.78 cm (1.48 in) per year, about the same speed as our fingernails grow.</li><li>The Moon – and especially the full Moon – was once considered a cause of neurological and psychiatric conditions, hence the term '<a href="https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lunatic" target="_blank">lunatic</a>', which literally means 'moonstruck'.</li><li>The Moon determines when it's <a href="https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/determining-easter-date.html" target="_blank">Easter</a>: the first Sunday after the first Saturday after the first full Moon after the spring equinox (20-22 March). </li><li>In the 1950s, the U.S. considered detonating a nuke on the Moon. '<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/science/2000/may/14/spaceexploration.theobserver" target="_blank">Project A119</a>' was meant to project strength at a time when the Americans were behind the Soviets in the space race.</li><li>Seismographs on the lunar surface have measured 'moonquakes', small movements several miles below the surface, caused by the gravitational pull of the Earth.</li><li>The land speed record on the Moon is 10.56 miles per hour, set by a lunar rover.</li><li>The space suit worn by the Apollo astronauts weighed 180 pounds on Earth, but only 30 pounds on the Moon, due to reduced lunar gravity.</li><li><a href="https://www.nasa.gov/astronautprofiles/cernan" target="_blank">Gene Cernan</a> was the last of the 12 men who have walked on the Moon, so far. His final words on the lunar surface, on 14 December 1972, were: "As I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come (but we believe not too long into the future), I'd like to just say what I believe history will record: That America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind."</li><li>A <a href="https://books.google.dk/books?id=Uc-UDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA91&lpg=PA91&dq=%22lowell+observatory%22+moon+cheese&source=bl&ots=YKAotnrhQ5&sig=ACfU3U0PE9nQxLUMMpBbdImMe3Ivrt6JyQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiWzJ-ux4vpAhXH6aQKHbiBDwYQ6AEwAHoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22lowell%20observatory%22%20moon%20cheese&f=false" target="_blank">1988 survey by the Lowell Observatory</a> found that 13 percent of Americans believe that the Moon is at least partially made of cheese.</li><li>The Moon is a one-person graveyard. Celebrated astro-geologist Eugene Shoemaker wanted to be an astronaut but was disqualified for medical reasons. Instead, he trained Apollo astronauts for their lunar missions. After his death in 1997, his ashes were placed on board NASA's Lunar Prospector, which was crashed onto the Moon in 1999. Shoemaker remains <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/eugene-shoemaker-buried-on-moon.htm" target="_blank">the only human buried on another world</a>.</li></ul>
Observing the great gas giant helps me to keep important things in perspective.
Like a lot of people, I'm worried. I'm worried about the politics of hatred and its seeming steady rise across the world. I'm worried about the way new digital technologies seem to be unweaving the fabric that allows democracies to function.
Most of all, I'm worried about the rapidly changing climate and the cascade of impacts it will force on our cherished project of civilization. Sometimes, this worry is enough to literally keep me up at night.
That's when I remember where the real power lies, and I look at videos of the sun.
Over the last few decades, astronomers have gotten really good at observing the closest star to us—our sun, which is pretty ordinary as stars go. It's not exactly average, since lower mass stars are the most common. But the sun is no prize winner, and it's not going to get itself placed in any record books. It's not really big. It's not really bright. It's doesn't have cosmic scale explosions that can be seen from across the galaxy. It's just a smallish G-type star living its life in a not particularly interesting corner of the Milky Way. It seems completely non-descript.
Until you really look at it.
Please take three minutes to watch this video, and you'll see what I mean:
You can see that our sun—that every-day, bright yellow disk in the sky—hosts the power of a god. Like every star, the sun is a ball of ionized gas that glows via energy released in fusion reactions at its core. The surface is where all that energy is released, and just a few minutes of watching the sun's surface activity is enough to change your opinion about the real nature of what's going on in our lives.
There are vast plumes of plasma—thousands of times larger than Earth—blown 100,000 miles into space that fall back to surface like rain from hell. There are giant arcs of magnetic field that form a fibrial network the extending across the entire disk of the sun. Watch long enough, and these ethereal webs of magnetic energy will shudder and short out, reconnecting their arcs from one location to the other and releasing hurricanes of light in the process. When the fields really “let go," they can create explosions that drive planet-sized cannonballs of plasma into space with an energy equivalent to a billion aircraft carriers moving at 1 million miles per hour.
A profound narrative
All this mayhem and power, revealed through the eyes of science, has a profound lesson to teach us.
Watching a few minutes of solar activity reminds me that whatever moment in history I am living through, its story is just one of many. Each tiny eruption on the sun is a narrative of titanic forces unbalancing and rebalancing. And each is powerful enough to put all the arsenals on Earth to shame. Simply put, what I see watching the sun is that whatever I'm worrying about doesn't matter much at any scale larger than the daily frame of my life.
Now please don't misunderstanding me. We should be deeply concerned about the suffering of others. We should be, and must be, committed to actions that alleviate that suffering. We can and should look for opportunities every day that contribute to supporting a future of freedom, equality, and thriving for all living things.
That is the good, necessary work of being human in whatever moment you were born into.
But it's also important to see how our lives are embedded in a bigger story that is equally true and equally real. The sun shows us one, very local aspect, of this “cosmic perspective." It tells us just how remarkable, extraordinary, and awe-inspiring our vast home of the universe really is.
What that means, for me at least, is that I should just get on with the helping day-to-day and let go of the worrying. That's what the stars—and the Sun most of all—have shown me.
Most of it was eaten by Earth's mantle, but scraped-off bits survive in the Alps and other mountain ranges.
- Following a 10-year survey, geologists discover a lost continent in the Mediterranean.
- 'Greater Adria' existed for 100 million years, and was probably "great for scuba diving".
- Most of it has been swallowed up by Earth's mantle, but bits of it survive.
Complex geology<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjAxMjUxMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDE4OTI2MH0.IenexvWxtpY_jWTI8pipCmvDmBPliVqR7Hgdf8fnpHU/img.jpg?width=980" id="b8d85" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="34380b4a09917c1b51d9e41bcefb057d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Topographic map of the Mediterranean Sea basin, once home to the continent of Greater Adria." />
Topographic map of the Mediterranean Sea basin, once home to the continent of Greater Adria.
Image: NASA / public domain<p>Move over, Atlantis. Not all lost continents are myths; here's one whose existence has just been verified by science. Greater Adria broke off from North Africa 240 million years ago. About 120 million years later, it started sinking beneath Southern Europe. But bits of it remain, scattered across local mountain ranges.</p><p><span></span>It's the geological similarities in those mountains that had led scientists to hypothesize the presence of an ancient continent in the Mediterranean. But the region's geology is so complex that only recent advances in computing—and a 10-year survey by an international team of scientists—were able to produce a geo-historical outline of that former land mass. This is the very first map of the world's latest lost continent (1).</p><p><span></span>The 100-million-year history of Greater Adria starts nearly a quarter of a billion years ago. The world was a very different place back then. It was just recovering from the Permian-Triassic extinction, which came pretty close to wiping out all life on Earth. The planet was repopulated by the first mammals and dinosaurs. </p>
Supercontinental break-up<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjAxMjUxMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTc1MjUzOH0.FbnnsJ0E5VT3P_iIhaFCq0bhrQ1YmOytSoPP1JPRwJY/img.png?width=980" id="69ff1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="30f64dbadb64a83eb8c3c9fc677278a0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="All together now: the supercontinent of Pangaea (335-175 million years ago)." />
All together now: the supercontinent of Pangaea (335-175 million years ago).
Image: Kieff / GFDL 1.2<p>Oblivious that biological imperative, Earth's geology was on a course of its own: fragmentation. At that time, the planet's land masses had coagulated into a single supercontinent, <a href="https://bigthink.com/news/pangea-politico-map-reveals-modern-countries-on-the-ancient-supercontinent" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Pangaea.</a> </p><p>Around 240 million years ago, a Greenland-sized piece of continental plate broke off from what would become North Africa and started drifting north. Between 120 and 100 million years ago, the continent smashed into Southern Europe. Even though the speed of that collision was no more than 3 to 4 cm per year, it ended up shattering the 100-km thick crust. </p><p>Most of the continental plate was pushed under Southern Europe and swallowed up by Earth's mantle, a process known as subduction. Seismic waves can still detect the plate, now stuck at a depth of up to 1500 km. <br></p><p>But some of the sedimentary rocks on top were too light to sink, so they were scraped off and got crumpled up—the origin of various mountain chains across the Mediterranean region: the Apennines in Italy, parts of the Alps, and ranges in the Balkans, Greece and Turkey. </p>
Death and birth<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b6e9d18f5ebe97540b2acf42bfddcdfa"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/tf9r2SmTJ1A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Flowing from present to deep past, this time-lapse reconstruction of the geological history of the Mediterranean shows the death and birth (in that order) of Greater Adria in unprecedented amounts of detail.</p><p>Some bits of Greater Adria survived both the shave-off into mountainhood and death by subduction. "The only remaining part of this continent is a strip that runs from Turin via the Adriatic Sea to the heel of Italy's boot," says Douwe van Hinsbergen, Professor of Global Tectonics and Paleogeography at Utrecht University, and the study's principal researcher. That's an area geologists call 'Adria', so the team, consisting of scientists from Utrecht, Oslo and Zürich, called the lost continent 'Greater Adria'. </p><p>What was the continent like? A shallow continental shelf in a tropical sea, where sediments were slowly turned into rock, Greater Adria possibly resembled Zealandia, a largely submerged continent with bits sticking out (i.e. New Zealand and New Caledonia), or perhaps the Florida Keys, an archipelago of non-volcanic islands. Either way, dotted with islands and archipelagos above the water, and lots of coral below, it was "probably good for scuba diving," Van Hinsbergen says.<br></p><p>It took scientists this long to produce the first map of Greater Adria not just because the Mediterranean is, in the words of Van Hinsbergen, "a geological mess (…) Everything is curved, broken and stacked. Compared to this, the Himalayas represent a rather simpler system." Greater Adria perished by subduction and scraping-off. The Himalayas emerged by the collision of two continents. </p>
Ore deposits<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjAxMjUxOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NDU3MzkxN30.LM6bVix9CeDUg5vzUre2skxcxyk0hYHQFUjLatA29R0/img.jpg?width=980" id="02403" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7a95c1d043c006bd0853cdf3564fec5e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="A reconstruction of Greater Adria, Africa and Europe about 140 million years ago. In lighter green, submerged parts of continental shelves." />
A reconstruction of Greater Adria, Africa and Europe about 140 million years ago. In lighter green, submerged parts of continental shelves.
Image: Utrecht University<p>The region also has a complex geopolitical makeup, obliging the researchers to piece together evidence from 30 different countries, from Spain to Iran, "each with its own geological survey, own maps, own ideas about evolutionary history. Research often stops at national borders."<br></p>So what has geology learned from the discovery of Greater Adria?<ul><li>First off, that its hypothesis was right: Geological similarities across the Mediterranean really did point to a lost continent, now found.</li><li>Secondly, the reconstruction of Greater Adria has also taught geologists that subduction is the basic way in which mountain belts are formed.</li><li>They've also learned a great deal about volcanism and earthquakes, and "(we) can even predict, to a certain extent, what a given area will look like in the far future," van Hinsbergen says.</li><li>Finally, and practically, these insights will help scientists and surveyors to identify and locate ore deposits and other useful materials in mountain belts. </li></ul>
As Game of Thrones ends, a revealing resolution to its perplexing geography.
- The fantasy world of Game of Thrones was inspired by real places and events.
- But the map of Westeros is a good example of the perplexing relation between fantasy and reality.
- Like Britain, it has a Wall in the North, but the map only really clicks into place if you add Ireland.
A world of "goblin porn"<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTQ5MDExMi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MjQ1MzM1MX0.7Nt6e30kVePubmQk9r-JGt5vIUuH9MuLuRzTNjcyAFI/img.png?width=980" id="acfba" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2e869701dc1f5a1bc69363de4125f6c9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Known World, with Westeros top left. Image source: A Wiki of Ice and Fire / public domain<p>Warning: if you haven't caught up, mild spoiler ahead.</p><p>"Hell is other people talking about <em>Game of Thrones</em>," <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/14/i-dont-watch-game-of-thrones-which-makes-me-a-lot-more-interesting-than-you" target="_blank">writes Arwa Mahdawi</a> in <em>The Guardian</em> this week. A few days more, and the eighth and final season of the show she dubs "densely plotted goblin porn" — clearly, she's not a fan — will be over.</p><p>Meanwhile, hell is hard to avoid. When it comes to following GoT, I'm on Team Arwa (a.k.a. <a href="https://www.facebook.com/SLContentProvider/videos/10155869239233512/?v=10155869239233512" target="_blank">Team Stewart</a>) but even we have heard rumors about a sudden bout of genocidal mania, and Daenerys perhaps no longer being <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/05/13/why-least-parents-may-be-having-regrets-after-last-nights-game-thrones/?utm_term=.5be533887eb0" target="_blank">such a good baby name</a>.</p><p>Fortunately for map nerds, GoT's dense plotting also extends to its topography. Just like the series' peoples, protagonists and events — often borrowed from actual history, then slightly altered — its fictional map is more than loosely based on ours.</p>
Maps to frame fantasy<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTQ5MDEwNy9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNDc2MDMwNn0.RWN-x_wlWjZm6N6SZ-m-M5JilodSGIOaRhsZ1XoRt30/img.png?width=980" id="a0a0f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c58983afcc622614e06589c42f56871a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The first part of Gulliver's Travels (1726) contained a Map of Lilliput and Blefuscu, showing the fictional islands positioned in the Indian Ocean, north-west of Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania). Image source: British Library / public domain<p>Fantasy locations have been a literary device at least since Plato spun his stories about <a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/394-athanasius-kirchers-atlantis" target="_self">Atlantis</a>, back in the 4th century BC. From Plato only a description of the island survives, more recent tales of fictional geography came with a map: Thomas More's <a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/51-a-colour-map-of-utopia" target="_self"><em>Utopia</em></a>, Jonathan Swift's Lilliput (and other islands visited by Gulliver), and Robert Louis Stevenson's <a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/378-x-m-aarrrh-ks-the-spot" target="_self"><em>Treasure Island</em></a>. </p><p>The watershed fantasy map, the one that spawned a thousand imitations, is the map of Middle-Earth, <a href="https://www.countrylife.co.uk/out-and-about/focus-hand-drawn-maps-jrr-tolkien-launched-middle-earth-181987" target="_blank">created by J.R.R. Tolkien himself</a> (from the 1920s to the 1940s): as the endpapers to the <em>Lord of the Rings</em> trilogy, they framed the wanderings of the Fellowship, the movements of armies and heroes, and the deep history underlying the narrative. </p><p>"I wisely started with a map and made the story fit," Tolkien once quipped. George R.R. Martin did it the other way around: he envisaged the opening scene of the first book of <em>A Song of Ice and Fire </em>(the book series adapted as GoT) and built the tale — and the world around it — from there.</p>
Not just a badly drawn Britain<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTQ5MDExNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjAyNDMzN30.kyFri8hL3N-4bZbulzhawa0yDAONO_tfEi6eis1XOVI/img.jpg?width=980" id="c814e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2aa6bb52e9348162d213dc8a02da3ce5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Mighty Westeros side by side with tiny Britain. Image source: Imgur<p>Only then did he take on the mantle of the First Cartographer, and it's his hand-drawn maps that appear in the books. Another similarity with Tolkien, whose <a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/121-where-on-earth-was-middle-earth" target="_self">fantasy world was inspired by real geography</a> was that Martin also drew his world with one eye on the map of Europe, and especially the British Isles. </p><p>Most of the action, in the books and the series, takes place on the continent of Westeros (there is a whole Known World out there as well). There's an obvious parallel with Great Britain in the Wall in the North: at 700 feet high and 300 miles long, it is a clear extrapolation of Hadrian's Wall (a mere 73 miles long, and never higher than 20 feet). </p><p>Westeros is much bigger than Britain, though: about 3,000 miles from the Wall to the south coast, about six times the distance from Aberdeen to London. But Westeros is not just a badly drawn Britain, nor a mirrored version of its land mass (two popular theories). Things click into place — literally — if you do the following: </p><p>Take Ireland, turn it on its head, inflate it by about a third, and stick it to Britain's bottom (via a new land bridge called The Neck). And hey presto, there's Westeros.</p>