urban design & landscape architecture

Mapping Mongol’s Campaigns: Changing Boundaries - 13th Century and 21st Century

Mapping Mongol’s Campaigns: Changing Boundaries
- 13th Century and 21st Century


Columbia GSAPP, M.S Architecture & Urban Design
Instructors: Michelle A. McSweeney
Elective course:  Mapping for Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities 2017
Project Location: Eurasian region
In Collaboration with Noor Malik


Mongolia is a country with a rich history and culture. Its influence emerged on the world “map” during the 13th century with invasions led under the Great Genghis Khan. From China to Europe, The Mongol Empire covered vast territories. This project aims to understand the changing boundaries of Mongolia during the 13th century by mapping the expansion of the Mongol Empire. Mapping of the changing boundaries will help us understand the 21st century countries covered under the Mongol Empire. Through this mapping, this project hopes to provide a base map for researchers who want to study and explore the influences of Mongolian culture on the current countries/cities and their relationship with the past.

Data Collection

The data used in creating this map is from three primary sources. One is the GIS mapping of Mongolia  and the second is the collection of historic maps which show Mongol invasions in the 13th century. We used the three historic maps depicting expansion of Mongolian boundaries in 1209, 1231 and 1258 . These three years within the 13th century hold a special place as they denote the invasion of major cities/country areas. Most importantly the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in 1258 which marks the opening of Middle Eastern lands for the Mongol army. The third important data source used is a historic map of the Silk Road during the Mongol Empire which connected China to the Middle East and beyond . The Silk Road played an important role as a trade route and Mongol rulers made sure the safety of cities along the silk road. It was one of the major land routes that produced economic benefits for the the empire. 

Mapping Process

  The mapping process began with tracing historic maps which show the expanding boundaries of Mongol empire in 13th century and Silk road. The tracing method was used as there was no GIS information available for such historic information. We then used the tracing boundaries and base maps for Georeferencing in the available GIS Mongolia map (sources mentioned above). This was extremely helpful to understand the current boundaries in relation to 13th century boundaries. 

Mapping Representation

The final base map produced by above mentioned process was then modified in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop for better representation and aesthetics. We chose the dark black color for current world map background to highlight the significance of current Mongolia boundaries. The use of shades of brown illustrate the expanding boundaries of the Mongol Empire. Each boundary represents the three significant years from the 13th century where the Mongol Empire expanded through major invasions. The Silk Road is highlighted in a contrasting color to highlight the significance of this route and its relationship with the changing boundaries. 


1, Administration of Land Affairs, Geodesy, and Cartography of Mongolia (ALAGaC)
2, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Chicago. https://cmes.uchicago.edu/sites/cmes.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/Maps/Map%20-%20Mongol%20Campaigns%20across%20Asia.pdf
3, https://worldmap.harvard.edu/maps/SilkRoad