Continents

The real explanation is much simpler; the division of Europe, Asia and Africa dates back to early Greek times. “Asia” meant to them the Anatolian peninsula (Asia Minor), and they didn’t know that you could get there on land by going around the Black Sea. Same thing for Africa; the Suez isthmus was out of their reckoning. Remember, in ancient times, travel by sea was, on the whole, a good deal faster and safer than travel on land.


John W. Kennedy
“Conpact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams


Link to Mailbag Article: What’s a continent? --CKDext

[Note: This message has been edited by CKDextHavn]

While interesting, the descriptions to date about the continents and their divisions are a bit antiquated. I understand that these concepts founded the current descriptions of the seven continents, but what about modern interperetations. The en vogue idea of seperating the middle east into its own continent aren’t driven by such issues.

Where do comments such as plate tectonics come into play. I also noticed in all the banter about the Europe/Asia/Eurasia topic there was no mention of the common understanding which states that the Ural (sp?) mountains are the dividing line. Being as they are they posed the same trade and migratory barriers as the Atlantic Ocean does to the Americas. This is a direct cause of the drastic ethnic differences that most credit the seperation to.

Thirdly where is the explanation of the difference between a continent and an island. The definition posed by the SDSAB and Webster that diferentiate the two uses each as a defintion of the other, a bit of a straw man arguement don’t you think? What in fact describes Greenland as a island as opposed to Antartica as a continent? Mere proximity to land???

Finally, the opinion stating the Middle East is its own continent begs the question what defines the Middle East? Is it simply the Saudi peninsula? Or all Arabic state?


The facts expressed here belong to everybody, the opinions to me. The distinction is
yours to draw…

Omniscient; BAG

>It was hardly surprising that these folks
>considered Asia a different continent; to
>them, it was practically a different world.

Thanks for the answer. I think, however, the word “still” might have helped my question. It’s no mystery why Europeans of old saw Asia as being “practically a different world.” I would like to know why, in light of more recent scientific discoveries that Europe and Asia are actually the same landmass, this view persists. India and its neighbors constitute a “subcontinent,” after all. The current geographical definition of Europe seems to have more to do with the frontiers of the “Great Powers” circa 1812 rather than the two criteria for the other continents, ie, a landmass surrounded by water, and bigger than an island.

All the best,
Simon Bone
euv-4442@euv-frankfurt-o.de
http://www.ourfounder.com/bone

Errr… Because sane people prefer that the meanings of “Europe” and “Asia” (and other words, for that matter) be well-defined and consistent, even if wrong on a technicality? And (nowadays) because “Eurasia” is perfectly available for those who wish to use it?

Why do we still name multiple oceans and seas? Apart from a couple of small lakes, after all, all the salt water in the world is continuous.


John W. Kennedy
“Conpact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

[[Thirdly where is the explanation of the difference between a continent and an island. The definition posed by the SDSAB and Webster that diferentiate the two uses each as a defintion of the other]] Omniscient

No they don’t. An island is defined as “a tract of land surrounded by water and smaller than a continent.” If a continent were defined as “a tract of land surrounded by water and bigger than an island,” you’d be correct, but it is defined as “one of the usually seven great divisions of land on the globe.” So “continent” is defined, and the definition of “island” then relies on this definition.

Of course, this discussion pertains to the modern definitions of each. I’m not the etymology expert others around here are, but it appears to me that the precursors to “island” predate the precursor to “continent.” How the two words were defined ages ago might be completely different than how they are defined today. It may be that someone 4000 years ago said, “Hey, this body of land is completely surrounded by water. I think I’ll call it an eyland.” 1000 years later maybe someone said, “Hey, I’ll be damned, this big humongous tract of land I’ve been traversing for the past 50 years is also surrounded by water. I think I’ll call it a continuous land mass. Oh, what the hell, that’s too long, I’ll just call it a continent, and differentiate it from an island by saying that it’s bigger.” I’ll leave that chicken-and-egg question to the etymological wizards here.

Rich

>Errr… Because sane people prefer that the
>meanings of “Europe” and “Asia” (and other
>words, for that matter) be well-defined and
>consistent, even if wrong on a technicality?

The definition might be perfectly fine for a “region,” but the definition of Europe as a “continent,” rather than a subcontinent or region-of-west-Asia, is a tad inconsistent. If a continent is an ethnographic construct, perhaps the Indian subcontinent ought to be one. Or, indeed, the Middle East (and presumably, North Africa). The existence of Europe as a political or ethnic entity is not in doubt – it’s just the conceit of calling it a continent.

>And (nowadays) because “Eurasia” is perfectly
>available for those who wish to use it?

Yes, but this is wimping out. Europeans ought simply to accept they’re part of Asia.

>Why do we still name multiple oceans and
>seas? Apart from a couple of small lakes,
>after all, all the salt water in the world
>is continuous.

True, although continents can be connected too (or at least until you dig canals between them – and yes, I suppose one could speculate whether a narrow isthmus makes it one landmass or two). But no one would argue that the South Pacific and the North Pacific are different oceans. Geographic separateness, as far as this is possible, is the main criterion for naming bodies of water.

Simon

Simon Bone
euv-4442@euv-frankfurt-


http://
www.ourfounder.com/bo

OK, but. . . What about Austrailia? Is it a continent or an island?


“To be great is to be misunderstood”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

World’s largest island or world’s smallest continent–take your pick.

Usually, since it is five times the size of its nearest competitor (3.8 Million square miles vs 840,000 square miles for Kalaalit Nunaat (Greenland)), most folks call it a continent.


Tom~

Query for geographers:

Is Saudi Arabia Eurasia or Africa? What about the rest of the Mideast?

Saudi Arabia is part of Eurasia. The Red Sea separates the Arabian peninsula from Africa and a rift below the Red Sea, at the juncture of the plates on which Africa and Saudi Arabia rest, is widening.

You aren’t from Missouri, are you?


Tom~