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A Fascinating Map of Medieval Trade Routes

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Globalization is so well established in today’s world that we don’t think twice about where our bananas or socks come from.

Long before fleets of container ships criss-crossed the world’s oceans, camel caravans and single-sail cogs transported regional goods across the world.

Connecting the World

Today’s interactive map, by Martin Jan Månsson, is a comprehensive snapshot of the world’s trade networks through the 11th and 12th centuries, which helped to connect kingdoms and merchants throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe.

A confluence of interesting factors helped bring these markets together to encourage commercial activity:

Crusading’s Commercial Corollary

The First Crusade kicked off in 1096, sparking a trend that would have an undeniable economic and cultural impact on Europe and the Middle East.

European fighters arriving in the Middle East came into contact with civilizations that were, in many ways, more advanced than their own. Merchants in the area had already been been trading with places further east, and demand for “exotic” goods shot up when crusaders returned to Europe with items both plundered and purchased.

The maritime infrastructure used to deliver all those soldiers laid the groundwork for moving goods between ports along the Mediterranean. Some ports, such as Alexandria, had separate ports for Muslim and Christian ships, which helped create a more stable pipeline of trade.

The Growing Influence of Cities

The dissolution of the Byzantine Empire and the Italian Kingdom left a vacuum that allowed Italian coastal cities to claim prominent roles in regional trade. The port cities of Venice and Genoa were transporting crusading soldiers to the front lines, so becoming hubs of trade in the Mediterranean was a natural evolution. Their geographic locations were also ideal entry points for goods moving along inland European trade routes.

In the 10th century, word of Ghana’s abundant gold supply spread to Middle East and actually triggered a rush by Muslim merchants to build connections in the region. A lucrative gold export industry encouraged the growth of cities to the south of the Sahara Desert, which formed critical links between Africa and the Mediterranean trade network.

Flying Cash

While Italian cities were cementing their role in Western trade, the Song Dynasty introduced an innovation that has important implications today: paper currency.

Paper notes, known as flying cash, backed only by the government’s word, helped eliminate the need for heavy coinage and allowed trade to flourish in China. Later on, Marco Polo would famously deliver this idea back to Europe.

The Silk Road

“The Silk Road” is a catch-all term for the many overland and maritime routes linking East Asia with Europe and the Middle East. Cities and towns along busy Silk Road routes thrived, and during the 12th century, Merv (in present day Turkmenistan) was actually the largest city in the world until it was decimated in 1221 by the Mongol Empire.

Trade routes like the Silk Road made the movement of physical goods possible, but perhaps more importantly, they facilitated cross-cultural exchange of ideas, religion, technology, and more.

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Gold

Gold in Nevada: The Real Golden State

Nevada accounts for 84% of U.S. gold production today. Here’s a look at the state’s rich history, its prolific production, and what the future may hold.

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Nevada: Gold Powerhouse

The Real Golden State: Gold Production in Nevada

Thanks to the world famous silver discoveries of the 19th century that unveiled Nevada’s precious metal potential, the state today is known by many as “The Silver State”.

However, it’s possible that nickname may need to be updated. In the last few decades, Nevada has become a prolific gold producer, accounting for 84% of total U.S. gold production each year.

Today’s infographic from Corvus Gold showcases why Nevada may have a better case for deserving California’s nickname of the “Golden State”: we look at the state’s gold production, exploration potential, and even its rich history.

A Defining Era for the American West

The discovery of the Comstock silver lode in 1859 sparked a silver rush of prospectors to Nevada, scrambling to stake their claims. News of the discovery spread quickly throughout the United States, drawing thousands into Nevada for one of the largest rushes since the California Gold Rush in 1849. Mining camps soon thrived and eventually became towns, a catalyst that helped turn the territory into an official state by 1864.

Interestingly, many of the early mines also produced considerable quantities of gold, indicating there was more to the state than just silver.

  1. The Comstock Lode: 8,600,000 troy ounces (270t) of gold until 1959
  2. The Eureka district: 1,200,000 troy ounces (37t) of gold
  3. The Robinson copper mine: 2,700,000 troy ounces (84t) of gold

The Comstock Lode is notable not just for the immense fortunes it generated but also the large role those fortunes had in the growth of Nevada and San Francisco.

In fact, there was so much gold and silver flowing into San Francisco, the U.S. Mint opened a branch in the city to safely store it all. Within the first year of its operation, the San Francisco Mint turned $4 million of gold bullion into coins for circulation.

While California gold rushes became history, Nevada mining was just beginning and would spur the development of modern industry. In 2018, California produced 140,000 troy ounces of gold, just a fraction of the 5.58 million oz coming out of Nevada’s ground.

Nevada Gold Mining Geology: Following the Trends

There are three key geological trends from where the majority of Nevada’s gold comes from.

  1. Cortez Trend
  2. Carlin Trend
  3. Walker Lane Trend

Together these trends contributed nearly 170 million ounces of gold produced in Nevada between 1835 and 2018, making it the United States’ most productive gold jurisdiction, if not the world’s.

The bulk of production comes from the Cortez and Carlin Trends, where mines extract low grade gold from a particular type of mineral deposit, the Carlin Type Gold deposit. It was the discovery and technology used for processing these “invisible” deposits that would turn Nevada into the golden powerhouse of production.

Today, the world’s largest gold mining complex, Nevada Gold Mines, is located on the Carlin Trend. The joint venture between Barrick and Newmont comprises eight mines, along with their infrastructure and processing facilities.

Despite the prolific production of modern mines in the state, more discoveries will be needed to feed this production pipeline—and discoveries are on the decline in Nevada.

Looking to the Future Through the Past: The Walker Lane Trend

The future for gold mining in Nevada may lie in the Walker Lane Trend. This trend is host to some of the most recent gold discoveries, and has attracted the interest of major mining companies looking to conduct exploration, and eventually, production.

Walker Lane stands out with exceptional high-grades, growing reserves, and massive discovery potential. It also played an integral role in the history of the state beginning with the 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode, and it seems likely to continue doing so in the future.

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History

Incredible Map of Pangea With Modern-Day Borders

Many millions of years ago, the world was one. This nifty map shows this Pangea supercontinent overlaid with modern country borders.

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Incredible Map of Pangea With Modern-Day Borders

As volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occasionally remind us, the earth beneath our feet is constantly on the move.

Continental plates only move around 1-4 inches per year, so we don’t notice the tectonic forces that are continually reshaping the surface of our planet. But on a long enough timeline, those inches add up to big changes in the way landmasses on Earth are configured.

Today’s map, by Massimo Pietrobon, is a look back to when all land on the planet was arranged into a supercontinent called Pangea. Pietrobon’s map is unique in that it overlays the approximate borders of present day countries to help us understand how Pangea broke apart to form the world that we know today.

Pangea: The World As One

Pangea was the latest in a line of supercontinents in Earth’s history.

Pangea began developing over 300 million years ago, eventually making up one-third of the earth’s surface. The remainder of the planet was an enormous ocean known as Panthalassa.

As time goes by, scientists are beginning to piece together more information on the climate and patterns of life on the supercontinent. Similar to parts of Central Asia today, the center of the landmass is thought to have been arid and inhospitable, with temperatures reaching 113ºF (45ºC). The extreme temperatures revealed by climate simulations are supported by the fact that very few fossils are found in the modern day regions that once existed in the middle of Pangea. The strong contrast between the Pangea supercontinent and Panthalassa is believed to have triggered intense cross-equatorial monsoons.

By this unique point in history, plants and animals had spread across the landmass, and animals (such as dinosaurs) were able to wander freely across the entire expanse of Pangea.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Around 200 million years ago, magma began to swell up through a weakness in the earth’s crust, creating the volcanic rift zone that would eventually cleave the supercontinent into pieces. Over time, this rift zone would become the Atlantic Ocean. The most visible evidence of this split is in the similar shape of the coastlines of modern-day Brazil and West Africa.

Present-day North America broke away from Europe and Africa, and as the map highlights, Atlantic Canada was once connected to Spain and Morocco.

The concept of plate tectonics is behind some of modern Earth’s most striking features. The Himalayas, for example, were formed after the Indian subcontinent broke off the eastern side of Africa and crashed directly into Asia. Many of the world’s tallest mountains were formed by this process of plate convergence – a process that, as far as we know, is unique to Earth.

What the Very Distant Future Holds

Since the average continent is only moving about 1 foot (0.3m) every decade, it’s unlikely you’ll ever be alive to see an epic geographical revision to the world map.

However, for whatever life exists on Earth roughly 300 million years in the future, they may have front row seats in seeing the emergence of a new supercontinent: Pangea Proxima.

As the above video from the Paleomap Project shows, Pangea Proxima is just one possible supercontinent configuration that occurs in which Australia slams into Indonesia, and North and South America crash into Africa and Antarctica, respectively.

Interestingly, Pangea Proxima could have a massive inland sea, mainly made up of what is the Indian Ocean today. Meanwhile, the other oceans would combine into one superocean that would take up the majority of the Earth’s surface.

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