The Michelle Smith Collaboratory for Visual Culture has developed a series of interactive maps in Google Earth for use in the classroom or personal study. These maps, which cover time, geographic space, and movements of people, provide background for interactions among the cultures of the world through history. These maps can be accessed through the Google Earth Plugin or the Google Earth software platform. For the latter, it is necessary to install Google Earth on your computer (PC or Mac), free software that is available by clicking here. Please feel free to use, even alter, for your benefit. We ask only a modest acknowledgement of the Collaboratory's initial role.
For information on how to use the maps on your desktop, click here.

Maps of Africa

This suite of Google Earth maps contains: Islamic Empire (Under Muhammed 622-632 CE, Under First Caliphate 632-661, Umayyad Dynasty 661-750 CE); Kingdom Maps (Kongo, Kuba, Bamun, Great Zimbabwe, Luba Empire, Lunda Empire, Mali Empire, Benin, Ghana Empire, Dahomey, Songhay Empire, Wolof, Nok); Major Cities/Landmarks; Civilizations of Sub-Sahara (Before 500 BCE, 1-500 CE, 500-1000 CE, 1000-1500 CE); Late-19th century Africa (Berlin Conference); Trade Resources; Trade Routes).

Maps of Europe

This suite of Google Earth maps contains: a map of Alexander's Empire and the path of his army's conquests (334-323 BCE); the growth and expansion of the Roman Empire (c.500 BCE, 201 BCE, 100 BCE, 117 CE); the Early Celtic Age (La Tene, 4th-1st centuries BCE); Viking; Carolingian Empire (Frankish Territory 481 CE, Clovis Conquests 481-511 CE, Conquests 531-614 CE & 714-768 CE, Charlegmagne 768-814 CE); and the Byzantine Empire (500 CE, Justinian 550 CE, 717 CE, 867 CE, 1025 CE, 1270 CE, 1453 CE).

Maps of China and of the Silk Road

This suite of Google Earth maps contains: Dynasties of China (Shang 1600-1046 BCE, Warring States 1045-256 BCE, Qin 221-206 BCE, Han 206 BCE - 220 CE, Jin 265-420 CE, Southern and Northern Dynasties 420-589 CE, Sui 581-618 CE, Tang 618-907 CE, Northern Song & Southern Song 960-1279 CE, Yuan 1271-1368 CE, Ming 1368-1644 CE, Qing 1644-1911 CE, PRC present); Silk Road.

Albrecht Dürer's trip to the Netherlands, 1520-1521

The German master artist Albrecht Dürer left art historians an unparalleled archival legacy with his detailed diary of his trip to the Netherlands in 1520-1521. This text is invaluable for documenting Dürer's encounter with the art and artists of the Netherlands, as well as his opinions on the growing religious tensions in northern Europe. Beyond this, however, Dürer’s meticulous journal offers a glimpse of a sixteenth-century international traveler's day-to-day experience, telling us of his quotidian purchases, sales and gifts of small sketches, and personal interactions large and small as he traveled between the great cities of the north.

This map has been generated from entries for the first month of Dürer's journey recorded in Georges Marlier and Marnix Gijsen’s text Albrecht Dürer: Diary of His Journey to the Netherlands, 1520-1521. By encoding the text as an XML document where places, people, and artworks are marked as elements in a hierarchical tree of diary entries, Ph. D student Matthew Lincoln was able to create a machine-readable "index" of the diary. A computerized script (written in XSLT) was written to translate this document into a KML file to be displayed in Google Earth.

All the placemarks on this map - places, people, and artworks - are timestamped, so that by adjusting the time slider in the Google Earth interface one may visualize Dürer's journey through space and time in a way not easily grasped by reading the diary text alone. By clicking on individual placemarks, you may read the specific diary entry from which that marker was derived, connecting you directly back to the primary source. Because this map is computer-generated, future additions and revisions to the digitized diary text can be automatically incorporated.

Pilgrimages to Rome in the Middle Ages

As the home of the Pope and the center of the Roman Catholic religion, Rome has been an important destination for Christian pilgrims for more than a thousand years. In the Middle Ages, pilgrims would journey to Rome--by foot, by horse, or by ship--from hundreds of miles away.

Since pilgrims might travel for weeks to reach Rome, their paths were not planned lightly. Pilgrimage routes had to account for helpful or harmful geographical features like rivers and mountains, the location of towns and cities for resting or re-stocking supplies, and the presence of other special churches and relics along the way. For one or all of these reasons, certain places in Western Europe became common waystations for travelers on their way to Rome. These cities thrived from the trade and cultural diffusion that the travelers brought. Pilgrimage was more than a religious practice--it was a commercial factor in European life.

M.A. student Lindsay DuPertuis has utilized primary documents from Renato Stopani’s text, Le Grandi Vie di Pellegrinaggio del Medioeveo: Le Strade Per Roma, to generate five different paths to Rome.  These paths have a variety of starting points and were traveled in a variety of time periods. By layering these paths on top of each other, the map and its pathways emphasize the comprehensive nature of pilgrimage travel as well as the commonalities.

Xuanzang's Pilgrimage to India (625-645)

The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that extended across Asia, linking powerful civilizations such as China and Rome. Precious goods such as silk and ceramics were traded between Asia and Europe, along with knowledge, techniques, cultural traditions, and religions. In particular, Buddhism spread across the Silk Road from India to China, and eventually to Korea and Japan.

One prominent example of this, here rendered in a beautiful Google Earth map by Jingmin Zhang, a doctoral candidate in Art History at the University of Maryland, is the historic pilgrimage made by the famous Tang dynasty Buddhist monk, Xuanzang. “Xuanzang’s pilgrimage to India” maps out Xuanzang’s trip to India based on The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions, the itinerary of his 16-year journey through Chang’an to Central Asia and eventually to India between 629 and 645. The book was compiled in 646 with the assistance of Bianji, a disciple of Xuanzang, who spent more than one year editing the book through Xuanzang’s dictation.

The pilgrimage project indicates important sites along the trip using placemarks and generates through them the routes that Xuanzang took. The three highest mountain ranges in Asia that Xuanzang passed through are marked out in the map, including the Tianshan Mountain, the Pamir Mountains and Hindu Kush. Placemarks shown in circles contain images and information of the sites and sometimes excerpts from Xuanzang’s book. The trip is divided into three parts using different colors.