University Relations
University of Minnesota : Driven to Discover.

James Ford Bell Library Home | Gallery Home

Portolan Charts

Unsolved Mysteries of the Portolans

7 Cities: The Phantom Islands of the Atlantic

Basing the identifications of the islands with lands on modern maps led Robert Fuson to the conclusion that lands on the western part of the portolan chart were Asian, and Antilia was Taiwan (Paper presented at a meeting of the Society for the History of Discoveries, 1988). Donald S. Johnson, in his Phantom Islands of the Atlantic, published in 1994, has an excellent chapter on "Antillia: The Isle of Seven Cities." In this he records the medieval Spanish story of how an archbishop and six bishops with their followers fled to the west in the eighth century to escape from the invading Moors. They sailed from Portugal to some place over the seas to the west, where seven cities (Sete Cidades) were established (Johnson 1994, p. 131-32). These seven cities are supposed to be the places shown on the 1424 Nautical Chart and later images of Antilia. Because of the details shown on the islands, with names of places given on some of them, it is very tempting to believe that they are more than the results of legends or myths. But the names on maps cannot be identified with modern places or even the origin of the names determined with certainty. Too often the reading of them is made to satisfy some theory about "firsts." What more is there to be learned about these portolan charts?

Click on the thumbnails below to see the island details.