Criticism of Maps: Methodological development for the Re-discovery of Silk Road Ruins and the Value of Sources

Maps are one of important sources for Silk Road studies, but its usage for historical studies is limited. The authors believe that this limitation is due to under-developed methodologies for the criticism of maps, which leads to inappropriate evaluation on the value of maps. The representation of maps gives impression that they are "the record of facts" and this tends to reduce the necessity of critical discussion on the errors and subjectivity of maps. Hence the purpose of this presentation is to introduce criticism of maps in the same manner as text, and discuss methodologies for an appropriate interpretation of maps with case studies.

First, the authors show that Central Asian maps made by Stein contain errors over entire maps, different error patterns by regions, due to the limitation of survey technology available at the time, and also demonstrate that a logical interpretation can be given to the cause of errors.

Second, the authors show that, the old map of Beijing, "Complete Map of Peking, Qianlong Period," created about 250 years ago, can be aligned with the current map using a new geo-referencing method for preserving the linearity of streets, and also discover that the main reason for confusing results in the past research is due to the incorrect reconstruction of maps performed in the past.

Third, the authors focus on ruins located within a few regions in Tarim basin, and succeed in comprehensively summarizing relationship between ruins that appear in expedition reports and contemporary survey reports, claiming that consistent interpretation is possible even when the name or the concept of ruins is inconsistent across sources. Moreover, in the case of Kara-khoja, even maps drawn subjectively by hand, appearing to be incorrect at first glance, can be properly interpreted based on the criticism of maps on the topological feature of maps.

Authors believe that methodology for the criticism of maps proposed in this presentation can offer basic strategy for the proper interpretation of sources represented as a map, and can provide framework to clarify geographic or spatial facts collected from multiple sources.


Asanobu KITAMOTO, Yoko NISHIMURA, "Criticism of Maps: Methodological development for the Re-discovery of Silk Road Ruins and the Value of Sources", 58th International Conference of Eastern Studies, pp. 17, 2013-5

BibTeX Format

      @InProceedings{ ices13,
      author = {Asanobu KITAMOTO and Yoko NISHIMURA},
      title = {Criticism of Maps: Methodological development for the Re-discovery of Silk Road Ruins and the Value of Sources},
      booktitle = {58th International Conference of Eastern Studies},
      pages = {17},
      year = 2013,
      month = 5,
      doi = {},
      note = {},

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