At the bottom of this page an interactive map of Earth in the year 900 CE is shown. It is half real and half fictional. The geography is real, the regions are historical, the cities and landmarks partly so. Despite the fantasy elements and incompleteness, it gives a glimpse of Earth during the Dark Age: a world that is only partially inhabited and mostly wilderness.

Note that the real map of past Earth looks somewhat different than the view of the modern world presented by the map here. In 900 CE, for example in central Asia the Aral Sea and Lop Nur were still real bodies of water rather than dry plains, while the three artificial lakes Aydar Kul, Arnasay and Tuzkan did not yet exist. Other artificial lakes, many created by power dams, were still in the far future too. Several rivers were larger or smaller than nowadays or run a partially different course; coastlines in low lying areas were somewhat different; the Dutch polders were yet to be milled dry; strait-crossing bridges had not yet been built. Many areas were much more forested than in modern times, especially in Europe and the tropics. Much of today's farmland was steppe, woodland or another type of wilderness in the past.
Cities, rather than the large blots on the modern map, were small specks in 900 CE. They contained 10,000 to some 100,000 inhabitants at most, not millions. Towns were even smaller, ranging from a few hundred people to a few thousand. Many medieval and younger towns and cities were not yet present or not yet grown beyond the size of a village or fort. Mirroring these, some ancient cities that have existed in the past had already been destroyed by earthquakes or war, or had dwindled back to villages. Almost all villages and forts are not shown on the map, but a handful are, often because they hav strategic value or are anchors for trade routes.
The distribution of settlements is distorted because for some regions very little data is available. Especially India and China show up as much less densely populated than they really were and also the American continents are under-appreciated. In some areas, like Papua New Guinea, population density was high but there were no large tows or cities; in others, like the neighboring Australia, population was simply sparse. Also there is a fantasy element in the presence of some cities that were part of ancient cultures that have perished on 900 CE Earth, but endure on this map. They include famous capitals like like Babylon, Memphis, Meroë, Sena and Teotihuacan. Also there are a handful of settlements that may have existed but are probably fictional.
Most names of regions, towns and cities are historical. Sometimes both a historical and a modern name are given. Especially in America, Austrialia, Oceania and South Africa, many historical names have been lost. There modern names, often English or Spanish, are used instead.
Major travel and trade routes are listed on the map, but many have been omitted. The difference between major and minor routes is often small, as most of both are unpaved and difficult to track in winter or a rainy season. In 900 CE, travel and trade by river or sea is often easuer than by road. These water routes are not marked, as they can be found by zooming in.
States are not shown; these must be taken from other maps. In 900 CE, they came in many different sizes and structures. They ranged from world empires like T'ang China and the Byzantine empire via smaller kingdoms like Axum or Kamarupa, city-states like the Greater Sugd and Champa and nomad confederacies like the Kimek khaganate to tribal areas like the land of the Sami or Bantu dwellers in central Africa. Europe was in the Dark Ages, besieged by Vikings, Moors and Magyars; Islam was a rising power in the Middle East; the Chola empire had united a large part of India; the T'ang dynasty rulesdChina though was in decline; the Toltecs were dominant in Mesoamerica, while the Maya civilization was crumbling through drought.
As is apparent from the sparse number of names in some areas of the globe, much of the world was only partly colonized, with humanity confined to small fertile areas, surrounded by wilderness. Other parts had not yet been explored at all. These include the Cape Verde islands and Azores in the Atlantic Ocean, the islands in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, New Zealand in the far south and Svalbard in the far north.

Interactive map

This interactive map was created using NASA Web WorldWind. In order to view it, your browser must support HTML 5 and have JavaScript enabled; a large screen is preferable. You can zoom in and out, rotate and tilt the map, manipulating the entire Earth view.

Legenda

  • Mountain ranges
  • Deserts and steppes
  • Rivers, lakes and seas
  • Regions
  • Landmarks
  • Towns and cities

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