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Ask Mapman[TM].

Did you know that the Sumerians, members of one of the world's most influential civilizations, lived in the Middle East about 4,500 years ago? They inhabited the southern part of the Fertile Crescent. It is a curved region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is now Syria, Iraq, and Kuwait.

A highly resourceful people, the Sumerians laid the foundation for many fields of study. Agriculture, astronomy, cuneiform (writing using wedge-shaped characters), and lawmaking are just a few of their inventions.

But for mapmakers, the most important feature of Sumerian civilization can fit in the palm of your hand. A clay tablet, with raised lines that course their way across a craggy surface, marks the earliest example of a relief map (see first question).

The following students will each win a Mapman T-shirt. Congratulations!

Ryan W., from Dayton, Ohio, has an archaic interest.

Q What does the oldest map look like?

A Found in Nuzi, in present-day Iraq, this clay tablet (re-drawn at right) is considered to be the oldest map. Dated to about 2500 B.C., it shows a river running through a valley between two mountain ranges. There are settlements or farms marked on it, too. Although the mapmaker is unknown, experts believe that a Sumerian chiseled it.

Jansen Y., from Wichita, Kansas, wonders about country names.

Q Why do so many Central and South Asian countries end in stan?

A The suffix stan is formed from an Iranian (Persian) word, which means "place [where one stays], home, country." Since Iranian people have lived in Central and South Asia for more than a thousand years the names of their countries are compounds of stan and the name of the people living there. For example, the country name Afghanistan literally means "country of Afghans." The name of Pakistan is the only country name in the region that does not follow this rule. Pakistan means 'land of the pure" in the Urdu language.
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Title Annotation:Sumerians, the oldest map, and geographical names in Central and South Asia
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Geographic Code:90ASI
Date:Dec 10, 2001
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