SOAS University of London

London Middle East Institute

Lines or No Lines: The Reality of Maps in Sinai Peninsula and the Middle East

Ahmed Shams Lecture Image
Ahmed Shams, Durham University

Date: 12 December 2017Time: 5:45 PM

Finishes: 12 December 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Lecture

There is a widespread geopolitical assumption that the Middle East is a well-mapped region. In fact, an unidentified number of key areas has not been surveyed on ground for 150 years, since the early surveys of the British Royal Engineers, despite the abundant maps which were produced for the region during the 19th and 20th centuries CE. Drawing on 17-years of continuous field expeditions by Sinai Peninsula Research (SPR), the newly discovered 150 years gap in mapping and mapmaking uncovers a dramatic loss in cartographic knowledge on maps. It raises crucial open questions about the reliability of the maps in the Middle East ― in understanding the historic and contemporary development of the realities on ground. In other words, had the available historic maps (19th and 20th centuries) for the Middle East reflected the realities on ground at the time of their production by different authorities and map services? The overwhelming international and national interest in geopolitical “Lines” lead to the creation of “No Lines” on maps to inform local and regional development policies, or to find a resolution for current disputes. While a large scale map would typically show more detailed topographic features (contours) as a result of aerial photography and satellite imagery, the level of details of the cartographic features (data) would not necessarily improve by moving from small-medium to large scale maps. In this regard, large scale maps reflect the topographic features of similar scale, without reflecting the expected compatible level of cartographic details.

Ahmed Shams teaches in MA International Cultural Heritage Management (ICHM) at Durham University, and is a member of the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF). Dr Shams is the founder of Sinai Peninsula Research (SPR). His current cross-disciplinary research focuses on knowledge-making, mapping and mapmaking, landscape and land-use in Sinai Peninsula and the Middle East and the Alps. He frequently publishes scholarly and press articles and is interviewed by media on Sinai Peninsula. 

Chair: Hassan Hakimian, LMEI

Admission Free - All Welcome

Organiser: London Middle East Institute

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Contact Tel: 020 7898 4330