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Ancient Maps

Archaeologists have uncovered many ancient maps of the Bible lands. One of the best comes from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Nippur, where someone had sketched a fairly accurate map of the city onto a tablet. Another ancient map is the Medeba Map (part of which is shown at right), a large mosaic of the Holy Land found in an ancient church in Jordan. The exact date of the mosaic is debated, but it played a decorative role in the church where it was found. The map shows the Jordan River, Jerusalem, and other important Christian sites. Based on these finds, as well as from references in the Bible, it is clear that ancient people oriented their directions differently from the way we do. When we look at a map, unless stated otherwise, we assume that north is at the top. For Ancient Near Eastern cartographers, the top of the map was east. So when we are told in Genesis 42:3, ?So ten of Joseph?s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt,? this reflects an ancient orientation where the western trek across the Sinai Peninsula from Israel would have looked like going down on a map. Likewise, when Joseph?s brothers return in Genesis 45:25, it is said that ?they went up out of Egypt,? reflecting the same orientation.

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