Palaeogeography

Since the Earth’s continents drift over its surface, the planet is slowly changing its familiar view. Everybody thinks the dinosaur lived on “our” Earth, when in fact the Earth looked completely unrecognizable millions of years ago.

Some geologists and palaeontologists have attempted to reconstruct Earth’s map at various points in the past. Two efforts have reproduced beautiful and useful maps. The first, the Paleomap Project of Christioher R. Scotese offers maps that are functional but somewhat plain. Dr. Ron Blakey, on the other hand, has created beautiful “satellite views” of ancient Earth. An example is this map, from the Middle Devonian:

Middle Devonian, by Dr. Ron Blakey

In a world building context, these maps are highly useful if you create a setting that is set in the past or in a parallel universe that is based on historical Earth. But there are other uses: For example, these maps could be used as alien planets (except for the very recent maps, in which Earth’s continental outlines become quite recognizable).

I have actually used the Middle Devonian map to create the map of an Earth-like fantasy world, which I call Arth (in honor of Starflight):

Arth

Pretty, no? And nobody who saw the “Arth” map by itself would suspect that it is merely our own planet Earth, just 385 million years ago.

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