Marco’s Travels

Figure 1: Embedded Carto map

 

INTRODUCTION

My original plan going into this project was to map out the locations Marco Polo traveled in respected order. Once I got my data recorded in Recogito [1], I planned on converting the data into a .csv file. I was wanting to then use a timed heat map through Carto [2] to visualize this idea as a timeline of Marco Polo’s travels.  As I started to collect data through Recogito, it soon became clear that our translation of Marco Polo’s travels was more of a narration of only some of the places than what I was expecting. I quickly decided to cut out the idea of the heat map for two reasons. One was due to the time constraint I was under, I simply could not go through the whole article and highlight all the locations that Recogito did not recognize. The second reason was since there are not many dates given with the locations, I did not want to assume the respected order of the entities Marco Polo traveled to. Since there are about 50 place names, I chose a few to discuss based off the popularity of the names during my research.

Marco’s Travels:

 Turcomania

While I know Marco Polo and his family were Venetian’s and that Venice was the beginning of their long journey, there is no mention of the city of Venice in Book One of this text. In Henry Yule’s translation, Marco’s journey began in Turcomania, which is located near today’s country of Turkey. I was able to find Turcomania by researching an article[3] about Marco’s travels through the cities of Conia, Savast, and Casaria during his trek through Turcomania. As you can see in Figure 1, Conia is the only city I was able to pinpoint in Turcomania. Throughout all the maps I searched at the Michigan State University Maps Library, I could not locate these three cities. Although by using Recogito, I was able to recognize Conia through a gazetteer.

 

Greater Armenia

Marco also traveled through Greater Armenia; this was a difficult region to map out. While Greater Armenia is quite popular on maps, these maps all have it located in a slightly different area. While they are all situated in what is today’s “Middle East”, it is portrayed as either one giant region or a sliver of the country called Armenia. I also came across what I believe could be a possible misspelling on Yule’s part. He discussed Greater Hermenia around the same time he began talking about Greater Armenia, although this could also be a mistranslation of the text before Yule’s. Henry Yule mentioned that Marco trekked through three more cities within the Greater Armenian region: Arzinga, Arziron, and Arizizi. While some people believe that Marco Polo might have been a real person and traveled to all of these places, some scholars believe that Marco might have been a fictional character created out of absurd stories during the late 13th century. I can understand why some scholars might think this, considering that these three cities were never named throughout my research. I never came across them or even close spellings of them.

 

Important Cities: Baudas & Tauris

The city of Baudas is probably one of the most popular entities mentioned in Yule’s text. Henry discussed it in reference of multiple other cities located near it, although I have not been able to place Baudas on any map I’ve looked at. A few of the cities mentioned in reference of Baudas are Kisi and Bastra, which I have not been able to detect either. Tauris is quite a popular city as well. I was able to pinpoint Tauris through the gazetteers of Recogito. Although Recogito recognized Tauris by the name of Tabriz, I found it interesting that within Yule’s translation they placed Tauris in the province of Yrac. I haven’t been able to find the province of Yrac throughout my research, which lead me to believe that it might be a translation of the country Iraq. Tauris is located within the Persian region, which is today’s Iraq (Figure 1).

A Few Limitations

My locations may contradict The Most frequently Named Places portion of this project do to the difference in research methods. I used Recogito, along with a few scholarly articles I had access through Michigan State University, and a copy of a map found at the Michigan State University Maps Library. One example of this would be the city of Baudus. During your time on The Most Frequently Named Places page, you might have noticed that they were able to place Baudus as Baghdad, Iraq. I could not locate this city, but once I discovered this I went back and I tried to fix this- but I came up short with my resources once again. I came across some limitations while doing this project. I learned that place name’s only go as far as the language they are in. Meaning, Yule might have used a few different languages while translating place names. The regions and cities within today’s country of China is a good example. I was able to digitally copy a map I found at the Michigan State University Maps Library (Figure 2). I found quite a few regions and cities including: Camul, Carocoran, Cambalu, Tenduc, Pein, and Lop. I was even able to confirm the locations of Tauris and Hormus. Even though this map was helpful, it also left me with questions. A few of the regions and cities were a close match to a few places that Yule discussed, but the spelling was a bit different than in his translation. The different spellings could have been lost in previous translations.

Yule’s Spelling vs. Europe Map [4]

Etzina – Ezina

Egrigaia – Erginul

Tangut – Tanguth

Chingintalas- Chichitalas

These places are within close proximity of each other as well. While using Recogito, I also found it easier to look for a place name in a different language. Coordinates were also something that this map did not provide, which caused a portion of it to be unclear. Sometimes Recogito would recognize one translation over the other; Hormus is an amazing example of this. I used a map within a book[5] from the Michigan State University Maps Library to possibly find a different spelling of Hormus. I knew for a fact that this city was located by what is the Hormuz Strait today, but I could not find the name that Recogito recognized it as. That is, until I found a map that spelled it like Harmuza.

 

Why is This Important?

Whether or not Marco Polo was a real person or just a work of fiction; his stories left an impact in the late 13th Century Era. His journals impacted mapmakers who took his stories as factual. The Michigan State University Map Library has a copy of a map in their possession from the 15th Century that mentions quite a few places of Marco’s travels in Ancient China. A mapmaker’s biases affect the outcome of their maps, whether or not Marco’s travels affected this particular mapmaker. I’m not sure, but somewhere down the line his stories might have taken root in a cartographer’s work.

 

Contributed by: Kayla Leer

 

 

[1] Recogito.pelagios.org. (2018). [online] Available at: https://recogito.pelagios.org [Accessed 23 Apr. 2018].

[2] Carto.com. (2018). Location Intelligence Software — CARTO. [online] Available at: https://carto.com/ [Accessed 23 Apr. 2018].

[3] Coones, Paul. “The Centenary of the Mackinder Readership at Oxford.” The Geographical Journal, vol. 155, no. 1, 1989, pp. 13–23. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/635377.

[4] Hondius’s Asia. (1606). [Map] Historic Urban Plans Inc. Ithaca, New York.

[5] Dower, John. “Ancient Persia Elam with Adjacent Countries .” Historic Maps of Armenia: The Cartographic Heritage , I.B Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2004, p. 206