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03.04.2014
DESCRIPTION: This highly controversial map has only recently been uncovered (1957) and therefore has only a short history of scholarly analysis.
According to these same scholars, the Tartar Relation text does have some significance in its own right as an independent primary source for information on Mongol history and legend not to be found in any other Western source. SOURCES: Analysis of the nomenclature and of its affinities with other maps or texts suggests some general remarks about the Vinland map and about its mode of compilation. The physical analysis, together with the endorsement of the map, points with a high degree of probability to the further conclusions that the map was drawn immediately after the copying of the texts was completed, and in the same workshop or scriptorium, and that it was designed to illustrate the texts which it accompanied. It is, of course, not to be supposed that its anonymous maker had direct access to all surviving earlier works with which his shows any affinity in substance or design; but identification of common elements will help us to reconstruct the source or sources upon which he drew. Even when the world maps of the late Middle Ages, drawn for the most part in the scriptoria of monasteries, attempted a faithful delineation of known geographical facts (outlines of coasts, courses of rivers, location of places), they still respected the conventional pattern which Christian cosmography had in part inherited from the Romans, and, in part, created. Bianco shows Scandinavia as terminating in an indented coast projecting westward with a large unnamed island off-shore, divided from it by a strait; but the author of the Vinland map has altered the island to a peninsula and the strait into a deep gulf by drawing an isthmus across the south end of the strait. In both, Ireland has the same shape and coastal features, derived from the representation in contemporary Italian charts; and Bianco’s version of Great Britain also is that of the portolan chart makers, with the English coasts deeply indented by the Severn and Thames estuaries and the Wash, with a channel or strait separating England and Scotland, and with Scotland drawn as a rough square with little indentation. The lower course of the Danube is correctly drawn as falling into the Black Sea; but the copyist or compiler appears to have erroneously identified it with the Don (which debouches on the Sea of Azov), for the name Tanais is boldly written just above the river, with a legend about the Russians.
The three small islands in the Persian Gulf appear in both, though Bianco’s crescent outline for them (of portolan type) is not reproduced by the anonymous cartographer; the large archipelago depicted by Bianco (again in portolan style) in the Indian Ocean is reduced to four islands, and the two bigger oblong islands to the east of them are in both maps.


His delineation of them, indeed, closely resembles that in Bianco’s world map, which is in turn a generalization, with nomenclature omitted, from the fourth and fifth charts (or fifth and sixth leaves) in his atlas of 1436. Their agreement in outline with the two large islands laid down in exactly the same positions at the western edge of Bianco’s world map is striking: in particular, the indentation of the east coast of the more northerly island and the peninsular form of its southern end, the squarish northern end of the other (and larger island) and its forked southern end, are common to both maps.
For this part of the map there are no earlier or contemporary prototypes of kindred character for comparison, and indeed (except in respect of Iceland) no representations with much apparent analogy can be cited before the late 16th century. The evidence, internal and external, which indicates that the manuscripts were produced in the Upper Rhineland in the second quarter of the 15th century can only apply to the map included in the codex.
Some of these anomalies (Aipusia, aben, Maori) are plainly the product of truncation or corruption in transcription, and indicate that the draftsman lacked the knowledge to correct his own errors in copying. The Yale manuscript contains only Books XXI-XXIV, and comparative calculations indicate that 65 leaves are missing that could account for the table and text of Book XX (these four Books cover the history from 411 A.D. The features common to both maps, and in some cases peculiar to them, are sufficiently numerous and marked (as their detailed analysis will demonstrate) to place it beyond reasonable doubt that the author of the Vinland map had under his eyes, if not Bianco’s world map, one which was very similar to it or which served as a common original for both maps. Some apparent differences in the rendering of particular major regions in the Vinland map, which may be due to the use of a different cartographic prototype or simply to negligence by the copyist, are discussed in the detailed analysis which follows.
Mediaeval world maps commonly show a pair of such legends, indicating the regions, outside the oikoumene, too cold or too hot for human habitation.
This name is placed in the approximate position of India media of Andrea Bianco, who (like most medieval geographers) distinguished three Indias—minor, media, and superior.


Its outline, on the east side, is deeply indented and in the form of a bow, the northeast coast trending generally NW-SE to the most easterly point, and the southeast coast trending NNE-SSW to a conspicuous southernmost promontory, in about the latitude of north Denmark; from this point the west coast runs due north, again with many bays, to an angle (opposite the easternmost point) after which it turns NW and is drawn in a smooth unaccidented line to its furthest north, turning east to form a short section lying WE. The course of the river of the Tartars, as depicted in the Vinland Map, recalls Rubruck’s statement that the Etilia (i.e. In a map of this form, drawn like the circular mappaemundi, on no systematic projection, we do not of course expect to find graduation for latitude and longitude, even if the quantitative cartography of Ptolemy had been known to its author. The first to cross into this land were brothers of our order, when journeying to the Tartars, Mongols, Samoyedes, and Indians, along with us, in obedience and submission to our most holy father Pope Innocent, given both in duty and in devotion, and through all the west and in the remaining part [of the land] as far as the eastern ocean sea]. Members of the Carpini party were somewhat confused about the courses of the rivers flowing into the two seas, supposing the Volga to enter the Black Sea. It might be said that the dominant interest of the compiler or cartographer lay in the periphery of geographical knowledge, to which indeed the accompanying texts relate; and such a polarization of interest is exemplified in the themes of the seven legends on the map. This hypothesis indeed, while it must be tested by collation of other extant maps from which the prototype may be reconstructed, has (prima facie) some support both from the analogy of the cartographer’s treatment of the tripartite world and also from the uniformity of style which characterizes all parts of the drawing, alike in the east and in the west, in those parts where we know, and in those where we suspect, a cartographic model to have been followed. The handwriting is similar in character to that of the manuscript and shows the same idiosyncrasies in individual letters.’’ The map was therefore probably prepared by the scribe who copied the texts of the Speculum and the Tartar Relation.



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