Anthropomorphic Maps and the

Human Shape of the Holy Land

Chapter 8 - Anthropomorphic Maps of Israel


The Land of Israel received the longest continuity of cartographic documentation in History. A review of the Holy Land maps shows that cartographers concentrated in the effort to be more accurate with the description of the terrain. This effort had a partial success at the end of Roman period, by the cartographer Ptolemai [87-150 A.D.]. At the Middle Ages occurred a prolonged regression. At the Modern Era cartographers returned to Israel frequently and succeeded in producing increasingly accurate maps. The first reasonably accurate map of the Holy Land terrain was produced only at the 19th century.


In the Near East map by Munster, drawn according to Ptolemai, Sinai Peninsula almost does not exist

The Near East map by Munster, drawn according to Ptolemai - Sinai Peninsula almost does not exist


A Map of the painter Roberts journey to the Holy Land - 1849

A Map of the painter Roberts journey to the Holy Land - 1849


Some of the maps were used for understanding the Bible which is full of Geographic landmarks.



In Judaism sources there are only few drawings. Rashi drew in the 11th century the land of Israel as a simple rectangle with mainly borders marks. He started a tradition which continued up to Gaon Mevilna in the late 18th century. These are concept maps which represent abstract faith.


Gaon Mevilna Land of Israel borders and the twelve tribes - 1802



The first known geographic anthropomorphic map included the Holy Land. It was the conceptual T-O map. In this genre of maps, common in Europe at the Middle Ages, Jerusalem is in the center of a world which suggests a cross shape. In Ebstorf map which evolved from these maps, Jerusalem became the navel. The contrast between the Jewish square and the Christian circle is an allegory to the disputes between these religions.


A schematic T-O map

A schematic T-O map



The cartographer Heinrich Bunting [1545-1606] was a contemporary of Merkator and Munster. He included three anthropomorphic maps in his successful scientific atlas "Travels according to the Holy Scriptures": The world as a flower, Europe as a woman, The Near East as the flying horse Pegasus. In 'Pegasus Map' the face is Anatolia, the chest is in the Holy Land and the legs are in Sinai Peninsula. The atlas was published first in 1581 and had more then 60 editions till the end of the 18th century.


Bunting  The Near East as Pegasus [detail]  16th century

Bunting The Near East as Pegasus [detail] 16th century



A search in the Internet revealed two new anthropomorphic maps of Israel: The man who drew Europe as a character whose head is Germany drew also the Holy Land as a penis.


The Holy Land as a penis


The painter of the world coloring maps drew Israel as a religious character.


A coloring map of Israel

A coloring map of Israel


In the Israeli media anthropomorphic maps of the state are almost unknown. One is by Israel National Council for the Prevention of Accidents.


An anthropomorphic map of Israel printed on a sugar pack

A rare anthropomorphic map of Israel printed on a sugar pack



In the Arab world there are many caricatures dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some from the last years describe Israel as an object.


Israel as an Arab veil - 2004

Israel as an Arab veil - 2004


Israel as a bench - 2005

Israel as a bench - 2005


Israel as a sword - 2004

Israel as a sword - 2004



The anthropomorphic map of the Holy Land which was created by the author of this book, is in the highest levels of Anthropomorphism and correlation with the landscape. It is based on many comparisons between anatomic models and satellite photos, and on the Bible and country stories.


The Holy Land Map as a Human Shape - Animated Map

The Holy Land Map as a Human Shape - 2007






Anthropomorphism, the attribution of appearance and qualities of human beings to animals and inanimate, is very common in all world civilizations as a mean of expressing ideas. All the religions use this principle at the daily level. The development of computer and robotic technology create a bigger need of it for optimizing the connection between man and machine.


The huge popularity of Anthropomorphism is because the human body is a major focus of attention concerning health, nutrition and nurturing. The human body is a microcosm where the big outer world is reflected. Historic collaboration exists between Medicine men and artists for illustrating Anatomy by advanced graphic and contemporary art styles. This is done even by sacrificing the pure scientific description.


In the arts there is a great freedom of creativity. Every work of art which integrates man in landscape is, at the same time, a projected description of the human body and Anthropomorphism of the landscape. The artistic spirit unites between the two. The development of new art styles allows bolder representations of this proclaimed relationship.


Maps are a very influential medium for delivering culture dependant messages. Antique maps represented a visual essence of their creators' world view. Although modern map making utilizes sophisticated measurement instruments, it is still under the influense of aesthetic design. Even accurate maps are forced to represent interpretive and tendentious view point.


The first anthropomorphic maps are the constellations and zodiac maps which are associated with the universe and world maps of early Christianity. Anthropomorphic maps of continents and single countries evolved gradually from them. Atlases of this genre were very successful. Anthropomorphic maps serve occasionally as caricatures.


The Land of Israel, although it is a favored cartographic subject, never had a proper anthropomorphic map. The state of Israel is described frequently as a ridiculous anthropomorphic image by the Arab media. The Holy land Map as a Human Shape can fill the empty space in many spheres.




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