Why North Is Almost Always at the Top of Maps

Comedians Jay Foreman and Mark Cooper-Jones of Map Men took an amusing look at how the direction North became known as the top of the world. They further explain that this wasn’t always the case.

It turns out the majority of ancient cultures had a 90 degree different view of the world from the one we have today. On their maps, the direction most often facing top was East. The reason for this is down to our hot friend, the sun. The sun rose in the east and because people liked the sun and were happy when it appeared, east became the most important direction.

This changed with the advent of compasses during the Age of Exploration, which took place during the 15th through the 17th Century.

The original inventors of the compass, the Chinese decided that this thing pointed south which In fairness, half of it did…In Europe there was already a long tradition of navigating by the North Star giving European navigators an astrological Northern bias. So when they got their hands on the Chinese pointing technology they used it to do what they’d always done and find North first.

North Up
Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.