Oldest known globe to depict New World found engraved on Ostrich Egg

Oldest known globe to depict New World found engraved on Ostrich Egg

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A previously-unknown globe showing the earliest depiction of the New World was etched on the lower halves of two ostrich eggs in Florence around the very early 1500s.



The globe reflects the very earliest knowledge of the New World gleaned by European explorers like Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci.  Out of the 71 place names on the globe, just 7 mark the Western Hemisphere and none denote North America, which is shown as a group of islands.  Three names are marked in South America: Mundus novus [New World]; Terra de Brazil and Terra Sanctae Crucis [land of the holy cross].  The globe also represents the oldest known depiction of many other countries in the world, such as Japan and Arabia.

As well as the geographic information, the globe is also elaborately decorated with intertwining waves, ships, sea monsters and a shipwrecked sailor, and even includes the warning “hic svnt dracones” [here be dragons].  It is thought that the unknown engraver may have worked in the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci.

The egg globe was bought from a dealer last year who said it had been in a European collection for many decades.  It has since been subject to thorough historical analysis and scientific testing, including computer tomography, carbon dating, assessment of the ink and cartographic investigation, and more than 100 leading scholars and experts worldwide have verified its provenance.

The ostrich egg globe showing depictions of the New World [left], Northern Europe and Africa [top right] and other intricate details - images from the Portolan, copyright Washington Map Society
The ostrich egg globe showing depictions of the New World [left], Northern Europe and Africa [top right] and other intricate details – images from the Portolan, copyright Washington Map Society
Source: Washington Map Society

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