The Lure Of the Unknown

At the dawn of the first millennium, a man could walk south from Ethiopia and get all the way to China. Six hundred years later, the Mediterranean was literally the center of the world, and the island now called Sri Lanka occupied the eastern half of the Red Sea. In the 1660s, the Mekong River, along with the Yangtze and the Salween, dangled like scraggly chin hairs from a Tibetan lake roughly the size of Taiwan. Or so it appeared on the most accurate European map from each of these eras.

In today's world, where aerial photographs can...

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