‘Sacred Mosaic’

The work entitled ‘Sacred Mosaic’ has been awarded the prize of Miguel Urabayen Award to Best Map (Print). The work was published in National Geographic and the team behind it, shares with us some of what went in to creating the piece and the challenges they faced.

Could you briefly explain the idea behind the story?

Jerusalem has been conquered at least 11 times in its long history and often that entailed wholesale destruction and rebuilding. Finding accurate data for the archaeological sites under the Old City was tremendously difficult. We ended up working closely with archeologists in Jerusalem (from both Israeli and Palestinian sources), using site plans from each dig, getting them accurately placed and creating geospatial data from them. Aboveground was surprisingly more complicated than we expected.


What creative processes did you use when working on the story?

Using architectural plans, photographs and text descriptions that included building dimensions, we made detailed 3D models of buildings. These would serve the reader as a reference and they would eventually be colored with the same color code used for historical periods on the map. As an additional layer, we decided to mark all of the active churches, synagogues, and mosques in the Old City. To our dismay, the Israeli government keeps track of the synagogues, otherwise there are no official lists publicly available for places of worship, but we managed to dig up a complete list from 2002. After translating it from Hebrew, a long process due to most places having multiple names and translations, we pulled 10 maps and 4 atlases of the Old City and began searching for all their locations. The lesser-known, smaller places of worship were near-impossible to find from our desks in D.C., but since we had a vague sense of their location, we hired a historian in Jerusalem to walk the city and find their exact GPS coordinates. Besides my fieldwork in the Old City of Jerusalem. The result: the most complete and detailed map published to date of the places of worship of the Old City of Jerusalem.

What was the main challenge when reporting on this story?

We were forced to work from paper maps and archeological plans. Jerusalem is blurred out on Google Maps due to a 1997 law prohibiting the release of detailed satellite imagery from Israel.


Alberto Lucas López, Matthew W. Chwastyk, and Kaya Berne, Ngm Staff; Patricia Healy; Gura Berger. 3D Art: Ariel Roldán. Digital Version: Soren Walljasper, Ngm Staff

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