Athanasius Kircher’s map series serve to elucidate the planet’s inner workings
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Washington/Canadian-Media: Athanasius Kircher, a scholar, scientist, and Jesuit priest based his theories about the world beneath his feet, and created a series of three maps from 1668 as part of his book, ‘Mundus subterraneus’ (Subterranean World) that show an impressive interpretation of the planet’s inner workings, Library of Congress (LoC) reports said.
These maps are housed in the LOC’s Rare Book Division.
Scientists and storytellers have often wondered about the happenings under the surface of the Earth, and have come up with imaginative subterranean worlds.
Kircher thought that the subterranean world could explain the volcanic activity and the movements of the tides.
A complex system by which fire travels from the Earth’s core to its surface, breaking through via the eruptions of volcanoes (or montes Vulcanii, mountains of Vulcan, the Roman god of metalworking and fire) is explained by the first map, Systema Ideale Pyrophylaciorum.
Shown on the map is a large central fire (ignis centralis) labeled A, with canals labeled C, and smaller lakes (aestuaria) of fire, labeled B.
The presence of lakes and rivers are similar to those found on the Earth’s surface with the difference that these canals are made of fire.
Clearly discernable on the map are paths leading from the central flame to volcanic eruptions around the world, with the smoke emerging from the volcanoes matching the swirling clouds surrounding the globe forming illusive images of the smoke and ash that accompany volcanic eruptions.
Kircher admits that there are gaps in his theory, though current science, he adds that the notion of a fiery Earth’s core is not entirely incorrect evidenced by the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the temperature of the inner core is as hot as the surface of the sun.
However, according to Kircher, besides fire or pyrophylacia, (fire-houses) traveling through the underground, there were also hydrophylacia, or “water-houses,” that interacted with the ignis centralis and also moved via canals and lakes.
With Kircher’s belief that the Earth’s interior is one of movement, he attributed the formation of tides to this interaction of water and fire under the surface of the earth could be destructive, too, causing whirlpools.
Water was pushed up through the surface at the base of mountains, the mouths of which can be seen on the map.
In addition to presenting a lively view of the subterranean, Kircher also made a map showing the effects of these underground systems of water and fire on the surface, with volcanoes (montes vulcanios) and whirlpools (abyssos) labeled, seen below.
Included in the map are common features of other early maps of territories that had newly been discovered by European colonial powers: California appears as a peninsula, and Australia is connected to Antarctica.
Australia/Antarctica is labeled on the map as “incognita,” or unknown as this region is devoid of volcanoes, which appear on every continent.
Also found in narrow passages and around the capes of continents, are whirlpools that underscore the many dangers of exploration.
Besides his geological theories, Kircher is also known for his other accomplishments including mapping the mythic island of Atlantis and pioneering studies in Egyptology.
Although his view of the underground is not believed today, these maps offer striking examples of how maps can be used for scientific purposes, both under the Earth and beyond it.