1688: Map Age Guide

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Map Age Guide
Does the screeching chill your blood and herald death? If yes, banshee. If no, seagull.
Title text: Does the screeching chill your blood and herald death? If yes, banshee. If no, seagull.
  • A larger version of this image can be found by clicking the image at xkcd.com - the comic's page can also be accessed by clicking on the comic number above.


The comic consists of a flowchart depicting various ways to tell what era a map is from based on present country borders and land forms. (Except in the Not a Political Map Branch (from "Can you see the familiar continents?" downwards), the comic applies to a political map.) While many of the options are very serious, a few bizarre options reference fictional maps (Discworld, Narnia, and Tolkien's Middle-earth), or consider that seagulls, staplers, tubas, or breadboxes could be mistaken for a map. Randall also mentions US President Jimmy Carter being attacked by a giant swimming rabbit, an event previously referenced as one we must never forget in 204: America.

The flowchart, although probably effective in eventually identifying the production year of certain maps, is designed in a rather inefficient way, as some early distinctions are already on a very detailed level before some really important distinctions (fictional or non-political map) are made. This, of course, adds to the humorous tone of the comic. It is also hampered by several smaller or larger error (see trivia), the biggest being a whole section on I-25 that gives years in the range 1948–1952, before I-25 was built, and coming from a question that fixed the year range to 1960–1961.

Additionally, (possible) future maps including a "Radioactive Exclusion Zone" in the place of Colorado are mentioned. It predicts that some kind of nuclear incident will occur in Colorado (possibly at Rulison or Rio Blanco nuclear testing sites) in 2022. It also predicts that the area will be infested by radioactive spiders one year later. As it is 2024 now, we see that both claims have been proven incorrect.[citation needed]

The title text continues the path where the user has confused a seagull for a map by inquiring if the (presumed) seagull might be a banshee based on the effect of its screams.


  • Going through the flowchart, taking the leftmost path first, recursively. (Note there is no recursive loop, any loop is your mistake). See also Depth-first search.
    • "Prior Date Range" is the range determined immediately before the question, carried over from the previous question.
    • "Question Date Range" is the range each answer choice implies.
    • "New Date Range" is the intersection of the Prior Date Range and the Question Date Range for each choice, and is the range determined by all questions hitherto answered.
# Question Explanation Prior Date Range Question Date Range New Date Range
1 Istanbul or Constantinople The largest city in Turkey is famous for having different names at different times or to different people. Variations on both names go back at least 1,000 years. Other names have also been used at various points. Istanbul has been the official name in Western languages since the 1920s (although it's been the native name since 1453), although Western maps often referred to it as Constantinople as late as the 1960s; on the flowchart, the choice of name appears to go with the 1920s date. The name changes are the subject of a song, originally by the Four Lads, but now mainly known for the They Might Be Giants recording. Start here
  • Constantinople: 330 – 1928
  • Neither: inconclusive
  • Istanbul: 1928+
  • Constantinople: 330 – 1928 (Go to 2)
  • Neither: inconclusive (Go to 19)
  • Istanbul: 1928+ (Go to 51)
Note: the chart splits here into three divisions, each from a choice in question 1. The Neither Division will attempt to use other indicators to sort maps into one of the other two divisions or branches thereof, or, after 5 failures to find a country, conclude that the "map" in question is not a political map and proceed to find out what it is (the Not a Political Map Branch). The Constantinople and Istanbul Divisions are linear except where the Neither Division joins them as stated above.
Constantinople Division
2 Do any of these exist?
  • Independent Canada
  • US Territory of Alaska
  • Tokyo
All these seem to specify a date cut-off of 1867/8, but there are caveats attached to each:
  • Canada gained its independence gradually, but it would appear as its own country (the Dominion of Canada) on maps sometime between the Constitution Act, 1867 (which created Canada as a British dominion) and the Statute of Westminster 1931 (which made Canada largely self-governing).
  • The Territory of Alaska existed between 1912 (previously, it was a US district) and 1959 (when it became a state). The US has owned Alaska since the 1867 Alaska Purchase, but it was not a territory then.
  • Tokyo was once called Edo. It was renamed Tokyo (which means "Eastern Capital") when it became the capital in 1868. Most English books around then would actually have called it "Tokei," the Chinese reading. The name Tokyo didn't take off until Hepburn romanization was popularized in the 1880s.
330–1928 (from 1)

1299–1922 (from 19 in the Neither Division) (from 24 in the Neither Division)

  • No: 1867-
  • Yes: 1868+
  • No: 330–1867 (Go to 3)
  • Yes: 1868–1928 (Go to 11)
Holy Roman Empire Branch
3 The Holy Roman Empire? The predecessor to modern Germany, the Holy Roman Empire was a union of hundreds of small states in Central Europe. Nationalism and the concept of the nation state hadn't taken off yet, so countries as we know them didn't really exist. There were just small lands, often with keenly contested borders, owned by minor aristocracy who pledged allegiance to one of the big powers. The HRE was dissolved in 1806 after it was invaded by Napoleon, arguably the first leader to realise the potential of making a nation salute a flag. 330–1867
  • Yes: 899–1806
  • No: 899- or 1806+
  • Yes: 899–1806 (Stated in comic as "1805 or earlier," since modern map-making was fuzzy as a concept prior) (Stop)
  • No: 330–899 or 1806–67 (Go to 4)
4 The United States? The original 13 colonies declared independence in 1776. A map that does not include either the HRE or the USA must be older than the HRE, which would put the map sometime prior to 1000 AD, when there really were no countries, and English wasn't used yet, hence Randall's comment. 330–899 or 1806–67
  • No: 1776-
  • Yes: 1776+
  • No: 330–899 (Not stated in comic, since a map in this period is probably not in English, which violates a proviso of the comic) (Stop)
  • Yes: 1806–67 (Go to 5)
5 Texas is...
Part of Mexico?
Part of the US?
Mexico (and before its independence, New Spain) occupied the area modern-day Texas from around 1718 (when the first permanent Spanish settlements were founded) to the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836 (the comic apparently cited 1834 as the date) – the land called "Texas" was only a small part of the modern-day state. The Republic of Texas only lasted a decade and joined the US in 1846. 1806–67
  • Part of Mexico: 1718–1836
  • Independent: 1836–46
  • Part of the US: 1846+
  • Part of Mexico: 1806–36 (Go to 6)
  • Independent: 1836–46 (stated in comic as 1834–45 – a discrepancy) (Stop)
  • Part of the US: 1846–67 (Go to 9)
6 Florida is part of...
The US?
Spain occupied Florida (as East Florida and West Florida) but frankly they didn't actually want it – it was expensive to send people to settle it, and there wasn't much economic value in it. So they gave it to the US for free in the 1819 Adams–Onís Treaty (which took effect in 1821) in exchange for the US giving up parts of Mexico and paying off angry Spanish settlers. (For some reason, the comic treats Florida as part of the US in 1818; see questions 7 and 8.) 1806–36
  • Spain: 1565–1763 or 1783–1821
  • The US: 1821+
  • Spain: 1806–21 (Go to 7)
  • The US: 1821–36 (Go to 8)
7 Paraguay? Declared independence from Spain in 1811 (although it might appear on older maps as the Spanish Province of Paraguay). 1806–21
  • No: 1811-
  • Yes: 1811+
  • No: 1806–11 (stated in comic as 1806–10) (Stop)
  • Yes: 1811–21 (stated in comic as 1811–17 – a discrepancy (see question 6)) (Stop)
8 Venezuela and/or Ecuador? Both declared independence from Gran Colombia (Greater Colombia) in 1830. 1821–36
  • No: 1830-
  • Yes: 1830+
  • No: 1821–30 (stated in comic as 1818–29 – a discrepancy (see question 6)) (Stop)
  • Yes: 1830–36 (stated in comic as 1830–33 – a discrepancy (see question 5)) (Stop)
9 Does Russia border the Sea of Japan? The 1858 Treaty of Aigun brought the Russian Empire's border to the Sea of Japan. 1846–67
  • No: 1858-
  • Yes: 1858+
  • No: 1846–58 (Go to 10)
  • Yes: 1858–67 (Stop)
10 The US's southern border looks... The last southward expansion of the US is the 1854 Gadsden Purchase, where the US bought a chunk of what is now Arizona and New Mexico so they could build a railway that avoided unfavourable terrain. The southern border looks "weird" before that because we are accustomed to the current border shape. 1846–58
  • Weird: 1854-
  • Normal: 1854+
  • Weird: 1846–54 (stated in comic as 1846–53) (Stop)
  • Normal: 1854–58 (stated in comic as 1854–56 – a discrepancy (where is 1857?)) (Stop)
South Africa Branch
11 South Africa? The Union of South Africa was created in 1910 out of the four British colonies (Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal, and Orange River), although South Africa was then not yet fully independent from the United Kingdom (which would not happen until 1931). 1868–1928
  • No: 1910-
  • Yes: 1910+
  • No: 1868–1910 (Go to 12)
  • Yes: 1910–28 (Go to 16)
12 Rhodesia? The region that now makes up Zambia and Zimbabwe was named "Rhodesia" by the British South Africa Company in 1895. An unrecognised state (1965–79) and a colony (1923–80 on-and-off) also bore this name, but they are both outside the Prior Date Range. 1868–1910
  • No: 1895-
  • Yes: 1895+
  • No: 1868–95 (Go to 13)
  • Yes: 1895–1910 (Go to 15)
13 Is Bolivia landlocked? Bolivia lost its coastal territory to Chile in the War of the Pacific, ceding Antofagasta in the Treaty of Valparaiso in 1884. 1868–95
  • No: 1825–84
  • Yes: 1884+
  • No: 1868–84 (Go to 14)
  • Yes: 1884–95 (Stop)
14 "Buda" and "Pest" or "Budapest"? In 1873, the Hungarian cities of Buda and Pest joined together to form the city of Budapest. 1868–84
  • Buda and Pest: 1247–1873
  • Budapest: 1873+
  • Buda and Pest: 1868–73 (stated in comic as 1868–72) (Stop)
  • Budapest: 1873–84 (stated in comic as 1873–83) (Stop)
15 Is Norway part of Sweden? Norway was ceded to Sweden in 1814, from which it separated in 1905. 1895–1910
  • Yes: 1814–1905
  • No: 1814- or 1905+
  • Yes: 1895–1905 (Stated in comic as 1896–1905) (Stop)
  • No: 1905–10 (Stated in comic as 1906–09) (Stop)
16 Austria-Hungary? Austria-Hungary formed in 1867 and dissolved in 1918. (Clueless bureaucrats of the time loved to abbreviate the name to just "Austria", but mapmakers tended to be more careful than that.) 1910–28
  • Yes: 1867–1918
  • No: 1918+
  • Yes: 1910–18 (Go to 17)
  • No: 1918–28 (Go to 18)
17 Albania? Albania declared independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912. 1910–18
  • No: 1912-
  • Yes: 1912+
  • No: 1910–12 (Stop)
  • Yes: 1912–18 (stated in comic as 1913–18) (Stop)
18 Leningrad? Saint Petersburg was known as Leningrad between 1924 and 1991. The city was founded in 1703 as Saint Petersburg (specific spellings vary); in August 1914, due to major anti-German sentiment related to WWI, it was renamed Petrograd (essentially the Russian translation of Petersburg). On January 26, 1924, five days after the death of Vladimir Lenin (the main revolutionary leader), the new Communist government (hostile to both the Orthodox Saint Peter the city was named after and the Czar Peter the Great who named it) renamed the city Leningrad in his honor. After the decline of the Soviet government in 1991, the name became unpopular, and a referendum in June 1991 (concurrently with the first Russian presidential election) restored the name Saint Petersburg for the city (officially in September 1991), which it holds to this day. 1918–28
  • No: 1924- or 1991+
  • Yes: 1924–91
  • No: 1918–24 (stated in comic as 1919–23) (Stop)
  • Yes: 1924–28 (stated in comic as 1924–29) (Stop)
Neither Division
19 Does the Ottoman Empire exist? The Ottoman Empire was founded in 1299, and defeated and dissolved on November 1, 1922 when the sultanate was abolished. Inconclusive
  • Yes: 1299–1922
  • No: 1299- or 1922+
  • Yes: 1299–1922 (Go to 2 in the Constantinople Division)
  • No: 1299- or 1922+ (Go to 20)
20 The Soviet Union? The Soviet Union is one of the largest countries ever to exist consisting of Russia and large portions of eastern Europe and central Asia. It was a major political force from December 28, 1922, when several allied Soviet republics united, to 1991, when it broke up.

Note: This question is the same as question 51 in the Istanbul Division, but because there a Prior Date Range of 1928+ has already been established by the presence of Istanbul, we need one more question to determine whether we are within the range of 1928+.

1299- or 1922+
  • Yes: 1922–91
  • No: 1922- or 1991+
  • Yes: 1922–91 (Go to 21)
  • No: 1299- or 1922 (November 1–December 28) or 1991+ (Go to 22)
21 Saudi Arabia? The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932. It is the first modern state to exert control over the area it claims, which previously were controlled by various tribal leaders. Most maps before 1932 will not mark the area as belonging to a nation at all, will attempt to mark the various shifting chieftains, or will attribute the land to the Ottoman Empire, which claimed the land but did not effectively control it. 1922–91
  • Yes: 1932+
  • No: 1932-
  • Yes: 1932–91 (Go to 52 in the Istanbul Division)
  • No: 1922–32 (Stop)
22 North Korea? The Korean Peninsula was divided into two regions, the north of which would be known as North Korea, at the end of World War II in 1945. This resulted in the inconclusive Korean War. 1299- or 1922 (November 1–December 28) or 1991+
  • Yes: 1945+
  • No: 1945-
  • Yes: 1991+ (Go to 69 in the Istanbul Division)
  • No: 1299- or 1922 (November 1–December 28) (Go to 23)
23 Saint Trimble's Island Since Randall just made up this place, it is impossible that a map would include it, probably as a cartographer's fingerprint indicating plagiarism? 1299- or 1922 (November 1–December 28)
  • No: inconclusive
  • Yes: impossible
  • No: 1299- or 1922 (November 1–December 28) (Go to 24)
  • Yes: impossible (Stop)
24 Is Jan Mayen part of the kingdom of Norway? Jurisdiction over the island of Jan Mayen was given to Norway around 1920, and it officially joined in 1930.

Note: Strictly speaking, it should be almost impossible to answer "Yes" to this question – the Ottoman Empire existed until 1922, the Soviet Union existed from 1922 to 1991, and North Korea from 1945 onwards, so by answering "No" to the previous three questions, the user has ruled out the entire period during which Norway has officially owned Jan Mayen, and almost the entire period it controlled it barring an extremely slim sliver of time between November 1, 1922 to December 28, 1922. The following questions ignore the previous ones (East Germany only existed at the same time as the USSR, and Pakistan was founded later than North Korea, so both should have already been excluded) – essentially, the Jan Mayen question reboots the test.
1299- or 1922 (November 1–December 28)
  • Not yet: prior to 1930
  • What?: Not a political map
  • Yes: 1930+
  • Not yet: (Go to 2 in the Constantinople Division)
  • What?: (Go to 25)
  • Yes: (Go to 53 in the Istanbul Division)
Not a Political Map Branch
25 Can you see the familiar continents? At this point, it is clear that the map in question is not a political map from any time. Therefore, the comic tries to determine whether it is a map of the Earth at all by asking if the continents are there.
  • Yes: map of the Earth
  • No: not a map of the Earth
  • Yes: map of the Earth (Go to 26)
  • No: not a map of the Earth (Go to 32)
Topographical Map / Satellite Image Subbranch
26 This sounds like a physical map or satellite photo. A map of the Earth that does not label political regions must be a topological map; or, it can be a satellite image of the Earth. Map of the Earth
  • Yes, that's it: topographical map or satellite image of the Earth
  • Yes, that's it: topographical map or satellite image of the Earth (Go to 27)
27 Is Lake Chad missing? Lake Chad lost 75% of its area in the 1970s, becoming too small to be included in a map or picture of the Earth. Topographical map or satellite image of the Earth
  • No: 1970s-
  • Yes: 1970s+
  • No: 1970s- (Go to 28)
  • Yes: 1970s+ (Go to 31)
28 How far east do the American prairies reach? As settlers made their way west, the prairie land in the Great Plains region was steadily replaced by farmland and ranches. By the 1920s, most of the land had been converted to agricultural use, and the last of the prairie was largely obliterated by the Dust Bowls in the 1930s. The dividing lines correspond roughly to the three types of prairie: tallgrass prairie grew between the Mississippi and Indiana, mixed grass prairie covered Nebraska and other states on the 100th meridian west, and shortgrass prairie covered the remaining area east of the Rocky Mountains. There's some overlap in the dates, since it's fairly arbitrary at what point you say the prairies stopped existing. There are still patches of prairie (covering about 1% of their former reach), but these are probably not visible in a satellite image. 1970s-
  • Indiana: Before 1830
  • The Mississippi: 1830–1880s
  • Nebraska: 1860s–1910s
  • What prairies?: 1920s+
  • Indiana: Before 1830 (Stop)
  • The Mississippi: 1830–80s (Stop)
  • Nebraska: 1860s–1910s (Go to 29)
  • What prairies?: 1920s–1970s (Go to 30)
29 Is there a big lake in the middle of Southern California? (created by mistake) This is Salton Sea, a previously dry lake bed accidentally flooded in 1905 while attempting to increase irrigation to the area from the Colorado River 1860s–1910s
  • No: before 1905
  • Yes: 1905+
  • No: 1860s–1900s (Stop)
  • Yes: 1910s (Stop)
30 Is there a big lake in the middle of Ghana? (created on purpose) Lake Volta, formed by the Akosombo Dam which was built in the 1960s 1920s–1970s
  • No: before 1960s
  • Yes: 1960s+
  • No: 1920s–50s (Stop)
  • Yes: 1960s–70s (Stop)
31 Is the Aral Sea missing? Shrinking since the 1930s, the Aral Sea would be too small to be on maps or images of the Earth by the 2000s. 1970s+
  • No: 1990s-
  • Yes: 2000s+
  • No: 1970s-90s (Stop)
  • Yes: 2000s+ (Stop)
Topograpical Map / Satellite Image Subbranch ends
Fictional Map / Non-Map Subbranch
32 Rivers "Sirion" or "Anduin"? The rivers Sirion and Anduin are part of Middle-earth, the fictional setting of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings books. Not a map of the Earth
  • Yes: map of Middle-earth
  • No: inconclusive
  • Yes: map of Middle-earth (Go to 33)
  • No: not a map of the Earth (Go to 37)
Middle-earth Subbranch
33 Mordor? Mordor is the base of operations of Sauron, who settled there c. 1000 in the Second Age (which lasted for 3,441 years). Map of Middle-earth
  • No: S.A. c. 1000-
  • Yes: S.A. c. 1000+
  • No: S.A. c. 1000- (Go to 34)
  • Yes: S.A. c. 1000+ (Go to 35)
34 Beleriand? Beleriand was broken in the War of Wrath in the year 583 in the Years of the Sun in the First Age. The First Age itself ran for 450 Valian Years and 590 Years of the Sun, adding up to between 5,023 and 65,390 Years of the Sun, depending on the conversion factor used (J. R. R. Tolkien has given several during the years). Note that Randall has apparently ignored the time before the First Age (4,550 Valian Years). S.A. c. 1000-
  • Yes: Y.S. 583 First Age-
  • No: Y.S. 583 First Age+
  • Yes: Y.S. 583 First Age- (stated in comic as First Age) (Stop)
  • No: Y.S. 583 First Age–S.A. c. 1000 (stated in comic as early Second Age) (Stop)
35 Númenor? The island of Númenor was raised from the sea at the start of the Second Age. It sank back into the sea in 3319 in the Second Age, as the formerly flat Earth was made into a globe. S.A. c. 1000+
  • Yes: S.A. 1–3319
  • No: First Age- or S.A. 3319+
  • Yes: S.A. c. 1000–3319 (stated in comic as late Second Age) (Stop)
  • No: S.A. 3319+ (Go to 36)
36 The forest east of the Misty Mountains is... The forest Mirkwood was called Greenwood the Great from its discovery by the Elves c. V.Y. 4620 in the First Age to 1050 in the Third Age when the shadow of Sauron fell upon it and it was renamed. It was cleansed on 'March' 28, 3019 in the Third Age (which ran for 3,021 years), after which it is called the Wood of Greenleaves. Note that Randall ignores the Fifth Age and onwards; although Tolkien said that the present day is about the end of the Sixth Age or the beginning of the Seventh, nothing is written about these later Ages. S.A. 3319+
  • Greenwood the Great: c. V.Y. 4620–T.A. 1050
  • Mirkwood: T.A. 1050–3019–03–28
  • The Wood of Greenleaves: T.A. 3019–03–28+
  • Greenwood the Great: S.A. 3319–T.A. 1050 (stated in comic as early Third Age) (Stop)
  • Mirkwood: T.A. 1050–3019–03–28 (stated in comic as Late Third Age) (Stop)
  • The Wood of Greenleaves: T.A. 3019–03–28+ (stated in comic as Fourth Age) (Stop)
Middle-earth Subbranch ends
37 Cair Paravel? Cair Paravel is the fictional castle where the Kings and Queens of Narnia rule in The Chronicles of Narnia. Not a map of the Earth
  • Yes: map of Narnia
  • No: inconclusive
  • Yes: map of Narnia (Go to 38)
  • No: not a map of the Earth (Go to 42)
Narnia Subbranch
Note: This series contains seven books, whose original publication order does not match their chronological order. Specifically, The Magician's Nephew is earlier than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and The Horse and His Boy is between The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian. Questions in this subbranch concern whether the place referenced can be found in the map contained in each book, not in which books' time the place exists. Therefore, places that exist in a book published later but is chronologically earlier than another book will not appear in the latter book, even if canonically they still exist in its time. Here are the seven books in their original publication order, which they will be referred to as.
  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  2. Prince Caspian
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  4. The Silver Chair
  5. The Horse and His Boy
  6. The Magician's Nephew
  7. The Last Battle
38 Calormen? Calormen is a foreign empire in The Chronicles of Narnia. While it was indirectly referenced in the first three books, it was not included in maps until the later books in the series. Map of Narnia
  • No: 3-
  • Yes: 4+
  • No: 3- (Go to 39)
  • Yes: 4+ (Go to 41)
39 Lotta islands? Refers to this map from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which focused on a ship voyage from Cair Paravel to the eastern edge of the world and back. 3-
  • No: not 3
  • Yes: 3
  • No: 2- (Go to 40)
  • Yes: 3 (Stop)
40 Beruna Refers to the map of Narnia originally published in Prince Caspian. During the time of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the people of Beruna crossed the Great River via a ford, but it had been replaced by a bridge at the beginning of Prince Caspian. 2-
  • Ford: 1
  • Bridge: 2
  • Ford: 1 (Stop)
  • Bridge: 2 (Stop)
41 Weird recursive heaven? Refers to The Last Battle, where the protagonists find themselves in Aslan's Country, a glorious afterlife of which Narnia (along with Earth and presumably every other world) is only a shadowy reflection. 4+
  • No: 6-
  • Yes: 7
  • No: 4–6 (stated in comic as one of the random later books) (Stop)
  • Yes: 7 (Stop)
Narnia Subbranch ends
42 Mossflower? A forest from the Redwall book series. See also the comic 370: Redwall and 1722: Debugging that references the books. Not a map of the Earth
  • Yes: Redwall
  • No: inconclusive
  • Yes: Redwall (Stop)
  • No: not a map of the Earth (Go to 43)
43 Is the world on the back of a turtle? The comic fantasy book series Discworld is set on the fictional Discworld, a flat disc balanced on the backs of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle. Not a map of the Earth
  • Yes: Discworld
  • No: inconclusive
  • Yes: Discworld (Stop)
  • No: not a map of the Earth (Go to 44)
44 Are you sure this is a map? After incorrectly guessing several popular fictional world, it is fair to doubt whether the subject being identified here is a map at all. Not a map of the Earth
  • Yes: a map for sure, just not of the Earth
  • No: not a map
  • Yes: a map for sure, just not of the Earth (Go to 45)
  • No: not a map (Go to 47)
45 Did you make it yourself? At this point, the map can only be a homemade map of some other fictional world. (Although it might be a published map of another world, such as Pern, Oz or Mars but there isn't enough room for these options.) A map for sure, just not of the Earth
  • Yes: a homemade map
  • Yes: a homemade map (Go to 46)
46 It's very nice. A stock response to "[It's] Very nice" is "Thanks, I made it myself". Since we have already done the "made it myself" part, we need to do the other parts too, albeit out of sequence. A homemade map
  • Thank you!: something "very nice"
  • Thank you!: a "very nice" homemade map (Stop)
Not a Map Subbranch
47 Is it trying to bite you? Now we are trying to guess something that is not a map. Makes sense to ask if it's something that bites, right? Right? Not a map
  • No: doesn't bite
  • Yes: bites
  • No: doesn't bite and not a map (Go to 48)
  • Yes: bites (Go to 49)
48 Is it larger than a breadbox? A typical, generic question asked by Steve Allen on What's My Line?, and is often used when playing Twenty Questions. However, instead of asking further questions to narrow down the choices, the comic just gives a guess for each response. The comic guesses a breadbox itself as something about the same size as a breadbox. Doesn't bite and not a map
  • Yes: larger than a breadbox
  • No: smaller than a breadbox
  • About the same: about the same size as a breadbox
  • Yes: larger than a breadbox, doesn't bite, and not a map (comic guesses a tuba) (Stop)
  • No: smaller than a breadbox, doesn't bite, and not a map (comic guesses a stapler) (Stop)
  • About the same: about the same size as a breadbox, doesn't bite, and not a map (comic guesses a breadbox) (Stop)
49 If you let it go, what does it do? This assumes that you are holding the biting object. While holding it, the object may have already bitten you, and the consequences of this would most likely be painful. Bites
  • Hisses and runs away: hisses and runs away if let go
  • Screeches and flaps around the room breaking things: screeches and flaps around the room breaking things if let go
  • Hisses and runs away: bites, and hisses and runs away if let go (comic guesses a cat) (Stop)
  • Screeches and flaps around the room breaking things: bites, and screeches and flaps around the room breaking things if let go (comic guesses a seagull) (Stop (however, see 50))
50 Does the screeching chill your blood and herald death? Note: Title text question. Likely, if a banshee is being held, or flapping around the room, one would have bigger problems than its identification. Also, heralding of death is a difficult quality to identify. Bites, and screeches and flaps around the room breaking things if let go
  • Yes: Screeching chills your blood and heralds death
  • No: Screeching does not chill your blood and herald death; or does not screech
  • Yes: bites; screeches and flaps around the room breaking things if let go; screeching chills your blood and heralds death (title text guesses a banshee) (Stop)
  • No: bites; screeches and flaps around the room breaking things if let go; screeching does not chill your blood and herald death (title text guesses a seagull) (Stop)
Istanbul Division
51 Does the Soviet Union exist? The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, existed from 1922 to 1991. After 1991, the Soviet Union split up into Russia and 15 other post-Soviet states. 1928+
  • Yes: 1928–1991
  • No: 1991+
  • Yes: 1928–1991 (Go to 52)
  • No: 1991+ (Go to 69)
West Africa branch
52 Is most of West Africa a giant French blob? Before 1960, most of West Africa consisted of a number of French colonies united under French West Africa. 1928–1991
  • Yes: 1928–1960
  • No: 1960–1991
  • Yes: 1928–1960 (Go to 53)
  • No: 1960–1991 (Go to 60)
53 Pakistan? Pakistan was officially recognized as its own country in 1947, when British India was granted independence and partitioned into two nations. Pakistan was created at the request of Muslims who wished for a Muslim majority state. 1928–1960
  • No: 1928–1947
  • Yes: 1947–1960
  • No: 1928–1947 (Go to 54)
  • Yes: 1948–1960 (Go to 56)
54 How many Germanys are there? During WWII, the Nazi Party invaded a large swath of Europe, which would make Nazi Germany huge on the map during that period. After the war, it split up into two countries — West Germany which was part of NATO, and East Germany which was part of the Warsaw Pact. Note that by modern standards, pre-WWII Germany was also quite huge, since at that point Germany included Prussia which contained much of modern Poland as well as Russian Kaliningrad, and in 1938 Germany took control of Austria in the Anschluss and the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia following the Munich Agreement. Not all maps produced during WWII used the Nazi borders, since the Allies refused to recognize German occupation and supported the governments-in-exile. 1928–1947
  • One: 1928–1940
  • One, but it's huge: 1941–1945
  • Two: 1946–1947
  • One: 1928–1940 (Go to 55)
  • One, but it's huge: 1941–1945 (Stop)
  • Two: 1946–1947 (Stop)
55 Persia or Iran? In 1935 the Iranian Government requested that westerners call it by the name its own people had used for hundreds of years, rather than after a tribe within it that gained prominence 2500 years earlier. The interval from 1928 to 1930 is dropped from this branch, but it would fall under Persia. 1928–1940
  • Persia: 1930–1934
  • Iran: 1935–1940
  • Persia: 1930–1934 (Stop)
  • Iran: 1935–1940 (Stop)
56 Cambodia? Cambodia (or Kampuchea) declared independence from France in 1953. 1948–1960
  • No: 1948–1953
  • Yes: 1953–1960
  • No: 1948–1953 (Go to 57)
  • Yes: 1953–1960 (Go to 59)
57 Eritrea is a part of... Eritrea declared independence from Italy in 1952, joining Ethiopia to create the Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea. 1947–1953
  • Italy: 1948–1952
  • Ethiopia: 1952–1953
  • Italy: 1948–1952 (Go to 58)
  • Ethiopia: 1952–1953 (Stop)
58 Canada is... In 1949, the Dominion of Newfoundland became a part of Canada. Before that, it was marked as its own country on the map, so maps from 1948 and before would have Canada "missing a piece" on its east coast as compared to how it looks today. 1947–1952
  • Missing a piece: 1948
  • Fine: 1949–1952
  • Missing a piece: 1948 (Stop)
  • Fine: 1949–1952 (Go to 63)
59 The United Arab Republic? The The United Arab Republic was a short-lived political union between Egypt and Syria. The union began in 1958 and existed until 1961 (although Egypt continued to call itself the United Arab Republic for several years after Syria left the union). 1953–1960
  • No: 1953–1958
  • Yes: 1958–1960
  • No: 1953–58 (stated in comic as 1954–57 – a discrepancy) (Stop)
  • Yes: 1958–60 (Stop)
60 How many Vietnams are there? On April 30, 1975, forces from North Vietnam captured Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City), and reunified the country, in an event known as Reunification Day, which marked the end of the Vietnam War. Maps before this date would have "North Vietnam" and "South Vietnam" on them rather than a single "Vietnam". 1960–1991
  • Two: 1960–1975
  • One: 1975–1991
  • Two: 1960–1975 (Go to 61)
  • One: 1975–1991 (Go to 64)
61 Bangladesh? Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) declared independence from Pakistan in 1972, as they had different languages, cultures, and the Bengalis felt their country was being run from West Pakistan without their input. The resulting war lasted just over 8 months and ended in Indian intervention. 1960–1975
  • No: 1960–1972
  • Yes: 1972–1975
  • No: 1960–1972 (Go to 62)
  • Yes: 1972–1975 (Stop)
62 Is the area south of Lake Victoria... The area south of Lake Victoria was called Tanganyika, and it declared independence from the United Kingdom to form its own country in 1961, and unified with Zanzibar to create Tanzania in 1964. 1960–1972
  • British: 1960–1961
  • Tanganyika: 1961–1964
  • Tanzania: 1965–1971
  • British: 1960 (Stop)
  • Tanganyika: 1961–1964 (Stop)
  • Tanzania: 1965–1972 (stated in comic as 1964–1971 – a discrepancy) (Stop)
63 The town on I-25 between Albuquerque and El Paso is... I-25 didn't exist for any of the years listed for this item, since the Interstate Highway System wasn't launched until 1956. The highway designation on maps printed during the years listed was US-85, and it was first replaced by I-25 in 1970–1990. The town changed its name from Hot Springs to "Truth or Consequences" in 1950, although locals say that it provides more of the latter than of the former. Initially there was an error as this question was on a path from the British Tanganyika (directly above it) instead of from the "Fine" option of "Canada is.." but this has been fixed. 1949–1952
  • Hot Springs: 1916–49
  • Truth or Consequences: 1950+
  • Hot Springs: 1948–49 (Stop)
  • Truth or Consequences: 1950–52 (Stop)
64 Jimmy Carter is... On April 20, 1979, Jimmy Carter was "attacked" by a swamp rabbit, a fact referenced in 204: America. This fact would not normally be referenced on a map, however, and is simply a joke entry that leads to the next question. 1975–1991
  • Being attacked by a giant swimming rabbit: April 20, 1979
  • Fine: 1975–1991
  • Being attacked by a giant swimming rabbit: April 20, 1979 (Stop)
  • Fine: 1975–1991 (Go to 65)
65 The Sinai is part of what country? In 1979, Israel signed a peace treaty in which it would gradually retreat from the entire Sinai Peninsula, handing that area to Egypt. This happened over a period of three years, completing in 1982. 1975–1991
  • Israel: 1976–1979
  • Mostly Israel: 1980
  • Mostly Egypt: 1981
  • Egypt: 1982–1991
  • Israel: 1976–1979 (missing 1975?) (Stop)
  • Mostly Israel: 1980 (Stop)
  • Mostly Egypt: 1981 (Stop)
  • Egypt: 1982–1991 (Go to 66)
66 What's the capital of Micronesia? The Federated States of Micronesia are a group of small islands in the Pacific Ocean. Their capital was Kolonia until 1989, when it changed to Palikir, on the same island. 1982–1991
  • Kolonia: 1982–1988
  • Palikir: 1989–1991
  • Kolonia: 1982–1988 (Go to 67)
  • Palikir: 1989–1991 (Go to 68)
67 Republic of the Upper Volta or Burkina Faso? Burkina Faso was named the Republic of Upper Volta until 1984, when the president Thomas Sankara decided to rename it to promote a sense of unity in the nation and in an anti-colonial statement. 1982–1988
  • Upper Volta: 1982–1984
  • Burkina Faso: 1985–1988
  • Upper Volta: 1982–1984 (Stop)
  • Burkina Faso: 1985–1988 (Stop)
68 (Number of Yemens) + (Number of Germanys) = ? In 1990, two unification events took place: Yemeni unification on May 22, and German reunification on October 3. Before these events, in early 1990, there would have been four Yemens and Germanys total. In mid-1990, when only the Yemeni unification had taken place, there would be one Yemen and two Germanys, for a total of three. and in late 1990, after both events took place, there would be one of each for a total of two. 1989–1991
  • Four: 1989–early 1990
  • Three: mid-1990
  • Two: late 1990–1991
  • Four: 1989–early 1990 (Stop)
  • Three: mid-1990 (Stop)
  • Two: late 1990–1991 (Stop)
Post-Soviet branch
69 Zaire? or: "Hong Kong (UK)" Zaire was one of a series of names for what is today called the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 1996 a (successful) revolt began to oust the reigning government from power. As part of this revolution, the country was renamed. The original name change away from 'Congo' was part of an 'Africanisation' naming campaign, although 'Congo' is in origin an authentic African name for the river that set the boundaries of the nation.

Hong Kong was taken by the British in 1843 at the end of the First Opium War, and an additional area (the New Territories) were leased from China in 1898 on a 99-year lease. When the lease expired in 1997, the whole of Hong Kong was returned to China.

  • Yes: 1992–1996
  • No: 1996+
  • Yes: 1992–1996 (Stop)
  • No: 1996+ (Go to 70)
70 Serbia and Montenegro are... The Union of Serbia and Montenegro was a remnant of Yugoslavia. Montenegro voted to become its own country in 2006.

Note: For much of the prior date range, "Serbia and Montenegro" did not appear on maps–the states still went by the name Yugoslavia. Serbia and Montenegro only came into existence in 2003.
  • One country: 1996–2006
  • Two countries: 2007+
  • One country: 1996–2006 (Go to 71)
  • Two countries: 2007+ (Go to 72)
71 East Timor? East Timor (also known as Timor-Leste) is a nation north of Australia and south east of Indonesia. During the Dutch colonization of Indonesia, East Timor remained in Portuguese hands. While occupied and annexed by Indonesia in 1976, East Timor retained its own culture and voted for independence, then had a nasty militia action that required UN peacekeeping action, and finally become independent in 2002. 1996–2006
  • No: 1997–2001
  • Yes: 2002–2006
  • No: 1997–2001 (Stop)
  • Yes: 2002–2006 (Stop)
72 How many Sudans are there? In 2011, after a long history of violence between the two portions of the country (which can be characterized as Islam vs. Christianity and traditional religions), South Sudan became independent from Sudan. 2006+
  • One: 2007–2011
  • Two: 2011+
  • One: 2007–2011 (Stop)
  • Two: 2011+ (Go to 73)
73 Is Crimea disputed? In 2014, a revolution ousted the current Ukrainian president. Crimea had its own civil unrest, and Russian troops exploited the unrest to launch an invasion. A referendum was held on March 16 2014 and ostensibly decided in favor of Russian annexation. Many nations, including all member states of the EU, the USA, and Canada, disputed the democratic legitimacy of the referendum. As a result, depending on where you get your maps, Crimea may be marked as disputed or as part of one or the other countries. Google Maps Ukraine shows it as solely Ukrainian while Google Maps Russia shows it as Russian. 2011+
  • Yes: 2014+
  • No: 2012–2013
  • Yes: 2014+ (Go to 74)
  • No: 2012–2013 (Stop)
74 "Colorado" or "Danger—Radioactive Exclusion Zone—Avoid"? This entry and the one below it are now referring to hypothetical future events: specifically, a huge radioactivity event in Colorado that takes place some time in 2022. Colorado houses several important USA defense installations which, in popular culture, become targets for nuclear strikes in the event of an all out war between the USA and Russia (for example over the political status of Crimea). Installations include Peterson Air Force Base and the heavily fortified Cheyenne Mountain Complex housing NORAD command functions. Colorado also has a previous history of radioactive contamination–it was home to uranium mines, nuclear tests (including Project Rulison, an attempt to use nuclear bombs to drill for natural gas that ended up making the gas radioactive) and the controversial Rocky Flats Plant, a nuclear weapons manufacturing facility that suffered several fires and leaks and was ultimately raided and shut down by the FBI. None of these has yet caused spiders to mutate.[citation needed] 2014+
  • Colorado: 2014–2021
  • Danger: 2022+
  • Colorado: 2014–2021 (Stop)
  • Danger: 2022+ (Go to 75)
75 Does the warning mention the spiders? Presumably some time in 2023, the radioactive exclusion zone also becomes infested with mutant spiders. 2022+
  • No: 2022
  • Yes: 2023 or later
  • No: 2022 (Stop)
  • Yes: 2023 or later (Stop)


[A very complicated flow chart, which can only be read in detail using the larger image now shown at the top of this page. This transcript uses the large version, which is more legible.]
[At the top of the chart there is a large caption, with a smaller caption below:]
Guide to figuring out the age of an undated world map
(Assuming it's complete, labeled in English, and detailed enough)
[Below the starting bracket in the small caption is a start box. It has rounded corners and it is gray with white text. From this box there is a gray line to a box consisting of a black frame with rounded corners. In these kind of boxes there are questions regarding the map in black text. Below this box there are three gray boxes like the start box, superimposed over the bottom frame. In these boxes are the possible answers to the question in the frame above. From each of these options there is a gray line going to similar black framed boxes with other questions either below, or to either side. There can either be two, three or four gray boxes, two the most common. Only at the very bottom of the central branch where it turns out it was a home made map, are there two frames with only one gray question box each. This trend continues over this entire large image. When reaching the end of a branch in the flow chart, there is no line away from one, more or all of the gray boxes for a black frame. When this happens a year range or a guess at what the map shows, or what it is (if it turns out to not be a map) is written below the gray box in gray text. Of the text in the gray boxes are Yes/No, but not always. There are 74 boxes with black frames with 158 gray boxes and 78 endpoints with text below the gray box and one end point without text below (the one with the home made map).]
Istanbul or Constantinople?
Do any of these exist?
  • Independent Canada
  • US Territory of Alaska
  • Tokyo
The Holy Roman Empire?
1805 or earlier (before this point, the modern idea of a complete political map of the world gets hard to apply.)
The United States?
How sure are you that this map is in English?
Texas is...
Part of Mexico
Florida is part of...
No 1806–10
Yes 1811–17
The US
Venezuela and/or Ecuador?
No 1818–29
Yes 1830–33
Independent 1834–45
Part of the US
Does Russia border the Sea of Japan?
The US's southern border looks...
Weird 1846–53
Normal 1854–56
Yes 1858–67
South Africa?
Is Bolivia landlocked?
"Buda" and "Pest" or "Budapest"?
Buda and Pest 1868–72
Budapest 1873–83
Yes 1884–95
Is Norway part of Sweden?
Yes 1896–1905
No 1906–09
No 1910–12
Yes 1913–18
No 1919–23
Yes 1924–29
Does the Ottoman Empire exist?
Yes #canada-alaska-tokyo
The Soviet Union?
Saudi Arabia?
Is most of West Africa a giant french blob?
How many Germanys are there?
Persia or Iran?
Persia 1930–34
Iran 1935–40
One, but it's huge 1941–45
Two 1946–47
Eritrea is part of...
Canada is...
Missing a piece 1948
The town on I-25 between Albuquerque and El Paso is...
Hot Springs 1948-49
Truth or Consequences 1950–52
Ethiopia 1952–53
The United Arab Republic?
No 1954–57
Yes 1958–60
How many Vietnams are there?
Is the area south of Lake Victoria...
British 1960
Tanganyika 1961–64
Tanzania 1965–71
Yes 1972–75
Jimmy Carter is...
Being attacked by a giant swimming rabbit April 20, 1979
The Sinai is part of what country?
Israel 1976–79
Mostly Israel 1980
Mostly Egypt 1981
What's the capital of Micronesia?
Republic of the Upper Volta or Burkina Faso?
Upper Volta 1982–84
Burkina Faso 1985–88
(number of Yemens) + (number of Germanys) = ?
Four 1989-early 1990
Three mid-1990
Two late 1990–1991
No 1922–1932
North Korea?
Zaire? or: "Hong Kong (UK)"
Yes 1992–96
Serbia/Montenegro are...
One country
East Timor?
No 1997–2001
Yes 2002–06
Two countries
How many Sudans are there?
One 2007–11
Is Crimea disputed?
"Colorado" or "Danger—Radioactive Exclusion Zone—Avoid"?
Colorado 2014–21
Does the warning mention the spiders?
No 2022
Yes 2023 or later
No 2012–13
Saint Trimble's Island
Is Jan Mayen part of the Kingdom of Norway?
Not yet
Can you see the familiar continents?
This sounds like a physical map or satellite photo.
Yes, that's it
Is Lake Chad missing?
How far east do the American Prairies reach?
Indiana before 1830
The Mississippi 1830s-80s
Is there a big lake in the middle of Southern California? (created by mistake)
No 1860s-1900s
Yes 1910s
What prairies?
Is there a big lake in the middle of Ghana? (created on purpose)
No 1920s-50s
Yes 1960s-70s
Is the Aral Sea missing?
No 1970s-90s
Yes 2000s+
Rivers "Sirion" or "Anduin"?
Yes First Age
No Early Second Age
Yes Late Second Age
The forest east of the Misty Mountains is...
Greenwood Early Third Age
Mirkwood Late Third Age
The Wood of Greenleaves Fourth Age
Cair Paravel?
Lotta Islands?
Ford The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Bridge Prince Caspian
Yes Dawn Treader
Weird recursive heaven?
No One of the random later books
Yes The Last Battle
Is the world on the back of a turtle?
Yes Discworld
Are you sure this is a map?
Did you make it yourself?
It's very nice.
Thank you!
Is it trying to bite you?
Is it larger than a breadbox?
Yes tuba
No stapler
About the same breadbox
If you let it go, what does it do?
Hisses and runs away cat
Screeches and flaps around the room breaking things seagull
Yes No, I made that one up.
Does the Soviet Union exist?


  • There are some errors and several discrepancies in the comic regarding how year ranges are given although it appears Randall has been fixing these errors.
    • I-25 was built in 1970–1990 through New Mexico; see the table above for more info.

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After the fall of Constaninople it was also known as Ḳosṭanṭīnīye for a while in the Islamic World which you could argue is Constantinople?

I think we should make the second-right and far-right column wider. Blacksilver (talk) 16:12, 14 November 2017 (UTC)

Well, I have no clue how to upload the image, it just displays the title text. 12:47, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

Done. Guess the bot failed because there is a larger one when you click the image on xkcd? --Kynde (talk) 13:08, 1 June 2016 (UTC)
The BOT didn't fail. The was an 404 error, the picture wasn't available at the first time. --Dgbrt (talk) 14:03, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

I feel like the title seriously lacks the word "political", there's all sorts of nice things with dating non-modern world maps. -- 13:34, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

It doesn't just cover political maps -- there is a section on telling when you are with physical maps via the presence or absence of bodies of water. In fact, there are four or five main branches: fictional maps, topographical maps, not a map, and political maps (which have two branches, based on the naming of Istanbul (was Constantinople) 13:42, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

I like how that this flow chart also describes what I've drawn162.158.26.220 14:05, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

The 1992-1996 range (top right corner) could be narrowed down further with the independence of Eritrea 1993. Am I getting something wrong or did Randall actually overlook this? :-) 14:49, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

Or the splitting of Czechoslovakia, also in 1993... There are probably others for different time ranges, too. 16:28, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

Noone else has started work on this and I'm bored so... (feel free to reorder and/or add more detail where appropriate) Relevant Events

Is there a big lake in Southern California? (Created by Mistake) Salton Sea A previously dry lakebed accidentally flooded in 1905 while attempting to increase irrigation to the area from the Colorado River

Vietnam unification: the two Vietnams were not united in 1975. Although the communist victory took place with the capture of Saigon in April of that year, the state of South Vietnam continued to exist, under the rule of the Provisional Revolutionary Government, until 1976. The two nations were formally united as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on July 2, 1976. Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provisional_Revolutionary_Government_of_the_Republic_of_South_Vietnam 14:28, 7 November 2016 (UTC) How far East do the American Prairies reach? The Northwest Territory was incorporated in pieces ~1820s, there may be something more relavent to draw the line at Indiana though.

Is there a big lake in the middle of Ghana? (Created on Purpose) Lake Volta

The US's southern border looks Gadsden Purchase

"Buda" and "Pest" or "Budapest" Buda and Pest were originally two different cities

Does Russia Border the Sea of Japan? Russia currently borders the sea of Japan so the 1867 upper limit is because of Tokyo not existing higher in the chain. The 1858 limit is to do with the Treaty of Aigun

Rhodesia? The dates down the chain suggest this is about Rhodesia the Region not Rhodesia the Unrecognized state nor Southern Rhodesia the British Colony (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

We are talking about physical/stellite maps at this point of the chart. Incorporation is not relevant. This is about the movement or size change of the American prairies. Climate change, perhaps. Haven't found anything relevant on that, though. Maybe it is about untouched land, as in not having settlements. -- 16:05, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

Should the relevant links above be added directly to the transcript, or to a separate section? -- 14:29, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

The transcript is only for faithful transcription of the comic. It exists for users who would otherwise be unable to view the regular comic, and should contain nothing but the contents of the comic. Links go in the explanation, if relevant. Davidy²²[talk] 18:56, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

Istanbul is not the capital of Turkey! (It's Ankara) 14:41, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

Maybe a better way of organizing this is chronologically, i.e., show the state of the world each year.

That being said, is every year accounted for? For example, 1857 appears to be missing. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

From the left and roughly in chronological order (only partial, might add more later):

'The Holy Roman Empire?' 1806 - Dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire by Emperor Francis II

'Do Any of These Exist?'

1867 - British North America act passed, marking Canadian independence

- Alaskan Purchase by US from Russian Empire

- Meiji Restoration (in 1869, Emperor Meiji moves to Edo, which is renamed Tokyo)

'Texas is...'

independent - 1836? 35? 34? Texas Revolution

'Florida is part of...'

The US: 1818 - US basically controls East Florida after First Seminole War (Spain officially cedes the territory in the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819.

'Venezuela and or Ecuador?'

1830 - Both Venezuela and Ecuador become independent as the Republic of Gran Colombia dissolves in late 1830, early 1831.

'Does Russia border the Sea of Japan?' 1858 - China cedes territory to Russia under the Treaty of Aigun, bordering the Sea of Japan (sort of? There's also the Treaty of Beijing)

'South Africa?' 1910 - the Union of South Africa created, thanks to the South Africa Act 1909 enacted by British parliament

'Is Bolivia landlocked?' 1884 - Treaty of Valparaiso signed ceding Bolivian territory to to Chile, leaving Bolivia landlocked (see also War of the Pacific

'Buda and Pest or Budapest?' 1873 - Buda and Pest merge to become Budapest

'Is Norway part of Sweden?' 1905 - Sweden-Norway dissolved, Norway becomes an independent monarchy

'Rhodesia?' Rhodesia was named under the British South Africa Company in 1895

'Austria-Hungary?' 1918 - Austria-Hungary officially separates into Austria and Hungary

'Albania?' 1912 - Albania declares independence from the Ottoman Empire

'Leningrad?' 1924 - Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) changes its name to Leningrad

You know there are times where I suspect he's just making some of his comics intentionally hard to explain or very ambiguous just to watch us do somersaults trying to describe them and make it clear, not necessarily for this comic but definitely with some of them it just seems that way. I don't know if he does or not, or how much he even pays attention to this wiki, just a thought. Of course maybe he does just because we're prime nerd sniping material. Lackadaisical (talk) 16:00, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

I'm pretty sure 'is it larger than a breadbox' is a reference to 20 questions. 16:11, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

From the Wikipedia page for 'Breadbox': "The most common reference to breadboxes is the phrase "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" when trying to guess what some surprise object may be. This question was popularized by Steve Allen on the American game show What's My Line? where he initially asked the question on 18 January 1953. It remains a popular question in the parlor game 20 Questions." 17:48, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

Note that it is very hard to even find Jan Mayen on an actual world map (even a political one), never mind figure out which country it belongs to. So anyone actually following these questions might (in some cases) get derailed fairly easily. 18:20, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

You will only get there if you can't find Istanbul/Constantinople, you can't find the Ottoman Empire, you can't find North Korea, and Soviet Russia can't find you. Note that the "no" box actually says "not yet". If you can find any of those four, you will never reach the Jan Mayen box. You will also never answer "yes" to the Jan Mayen box, as that would contradict the Soviet Union and North Korea not existing. 20:34, 1 June 2016 (UTC)
I tried to explain that a response of "What?" is interpreted to be unable to find Norway, not Jan Mayen, for this reason and that the name didn't exist until 1620, but then I couldn't eliminate that the map is from 1299 or earlier, because the kingdom of Norway is not that old. As for the "Yes" response, for a short period between November 1 and December 28, 1922, neither the Soviet Union nor the Ottoman Empire existed, and Norway had already received jurisdiction over Jan Mayen then.--Troy0 (talk) 07:16, 2 June 2016 (UTC)
I stumbled on this when trying to apply the test to the Yakko's World map (which is normally mid-1990 - total of Yemens and Germanys is 3; of course, that's because there's 2 Yemens and 1 Germany, and the intended date was probably in 1991). As it happens, the Soviet Union is labelled "Russia", Korea is shown as unified, and Istanbul is not labelled at all but the country is Turkey, so we get to the Jan Mayen question. (I hadn't looked at thar map precisely enough to figure out if Jan Mayen is there at all, but it must be Norwegian if it does appear. However, even if we answer "yes", it would not be possible to reach the 1990 option anyway [we get 1954-57, in fact]. OTOH, if we accept that the Soviet Union is there, we correctly reach the Micronesia question, and the mid-1990 option is close enough to that to be able to guess correctly.) 13:56, 3 June 2016 (UTC)

Update picture, please: The "giant French blob" "yes" option points to the correct box (Pakistan) on xkcd.com but not on this page (Bangladesh), and the incorrect version leaves out approximately 1930-1960. 20:34, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

I fleshed out the Narnian section with links to the original illustrated maps from several books (but this gets weird in a hurry because there is no consistency of illustrations across the various editions of the books). I think it deserves to be mentioned in the article (although I did not try) that Randall is being slightly disingenuous with the history of maps of Narnia. For instance, there is no published map with sufficient detail to determine if Beruna has a ford or a bridge, neither can I find a map that includes Aslan's Country. On the other hand, it is also not an accurate history of the geopolitics of Narnia; for instance, Calormen existed during the time of the first three books even if it wasn't listed on any of the authorized maps. Also, it is the first time I have helped to edit an article, so I apologize for the quirkiness (especially the reliance on non-wikipedia links). Mwdaly (talk) 02:55, 2 June 2016 (UTC)

The introduction to the Narnia section reminds me of Douglas Adams' discussion of the difficulties of tense formation in time travel [1], differences between writing/publication order and reading order are very like time travel. 16:24, 4 June 2016 (UTC)

Any particular reason the Crimea description was edited to be so much more condemning of Russia? I could understand if it was originally written that way, but it was changed essentially to put Russia's actions in a negative light. Is that something that needs to be done? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

My map doesn't fit the chart... I think?

I've got a Stanford's General Map of the World (On Mercator's Projection) from 1968. My answers:

Istanbul -> The Soviet Union exists -> West Africa is not a giant French blob -> Only one Vietnam -> Jimmy Carter is fine... I think? The only animals on my map are Poseidon and a seahorse -> Sinai is mostly Egyptian...

Bangladesh exists, and below Victoria is Tanzania; so where's the second Vietnam I've failed to locate on my map? Mr FJ (talk) 20:44, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

Your map is optimistic in suggesting there is only one Vietnam, as 1968 was in the heart of the Vietnam War. 22:42, 1 June 2016 (UTC)
Saint Trimble's Island

I think the real question is: how long until there actually is one on this planet, even though Randal claims to have made it up. --Divad27182 (talk) 03:30, 2 June 2016 (UTC)

Perhaps this should refer to Sandy Island. [2] 16:18, 4 June 2016 (UTC)

There was a Trimble Island https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blake_Island 11:51, 30 June 2020 (UTC)

Appearantly the year of an event is included in intervals after the event, but not in those prior. How do we handle it? Troy0 (talk) 03:46, 2 June 2016 (UTC)


Going on the path neither - no ottoman empire - no soviet union - no north korea - jan mayen is norwegian I will get results that all belong to a time were the soviet union existed. Am I doing it wrong?-- 08:01, 2 June 2016 (UTC)

This path implies a time interval between November 1 and December 28, 1922, so it is unclear why it is linked to the Istanbul Division, which is 1928 or later.--Troy0 (talk) 08:28, 2 June 2016 (UTC)

Did it work on your map?

I just tried this out on an old Danish world atlas (Lademann Verdensatlas with most English names also included). And although I could not determine the capital of Micronesia, I found out that it was still called Upper Volta not Burkino faso and thus the map should be from 1982-1984. First then did I check the release date for this map and true enough it was from 1982! Cool. --Kynde (talk) 08:41, 2 June 2016 (UTc)

it can guess modern maps

Didn't work

A map [3] in the New York Public library, dated 1840, is given a date of 1818-1830. Notably this map has Texas as part of Mexico (though mentioned as in captials indicating a district within Mexico. It is also missing independent Paraguay, Ecuador and Venezuela. Zeimusu (talk) 10:04, 3 June 2016 (UTC)

Apparently most Mars maps were made in 1922-1932. No Istanbul/Constantinople, no Ottoman Empire, Soviet Union exists (e.g. Mars 3 and Mars 6), no Saudi Arabia... -- 11:18, 2 June 2016 (UTC)

I have been evaluating world globes (subset of maps of course) for several years, and find this quite amusing. A note of interest: Apparently Randall knows that maps often do include copyright or other dates, while globes with very few exceptions do not include a date. There are other guides to finding the date of presentation of a globe of course, which may or may not pin the date down more precisely. Pault151 (talk) 05:38, 3 June 2016 (UTC)

Hugo Giraudel made a command line version of this: https://github.com/HugoGiraudel/map-dater (full disclosure: I helped) Haroenv (talk) 16:24, 13 June 2016 (UTC)

Starting at the Istanbul Division, the Question Date Range no longer fits the definition at the top of the table, and now includes the effects of the Prior Date Range. 07:03, 20 March 2017 (UTC)

I tried to apply this to a map of Pangaea and ended up being taken to the "you made this yourself" part... 09:49, 27 August 2017 (UTC)

It's very nice. 12:22, 25 October 2017 (UTC)

How come Istanbul can both exist and not exist on a map of the same date. They can both lead to Zare/Zaire. Netherin5 (talk) 18:04, 12 February 2019 (UTC)

Munroe writes: "(Assuming it's complete, labeled in English, and detailed enough)" which is unfortunately not enough of an assumption. Some publishers are notorious for updating slowly. Like looking at the light that left a galaxy several years ago, you may be looking at a map that reflects reality the last time the publisher really updated it (and did not just slap a new date on it). Also, there's Constantinople. Which still shows up on maps of Greece, published in English, in Greek. In fact, the list of facts that map-makers deny or have denied for political reasons is huge. It's why this game (which I used to play when I was a kid - 2 Pakistans and the name of the Congo were major indicators) can be frustrating. And no, we did not use UAR, since different mapmakers handled it differently. Hey, I found this one with Smyrna: https://www.greektravel.com/maps/greece.html Can someone find one with Constantinople? Oh, oh, and I used to be a cartographer. It doesn't make me right, but I like saying it. Jd2718 (talk) 23:41, 21 December 2020 (UTC)

The alert box at the top of every page needs to be changed, as this explanation is no longer incomplete.

Agreed. maybe change it to 1975: Right Click? 17:21, 7 August 2021 (UTC)Bumpf

Um... o-oh dear. We should probably start keeping an eye out for those spiders... LendriMujina (talk) 19:53, 28 January 2022 (UTC)

Can Colorado hurry up and have a nuclear meltdown? It's 2022. Beanie talk 23:16, 24 February 2022 (UTC)

Regarding "A map that does not include either the HRE or the USA must be older than the HRE, which would put the map sometime prior to 1000 AD, when there really were no countries, and English wasn't used yet, hence Randall's comment". " I could be wrong, but my interperation of this was that a map that isn't in English wouldn't list the HRE or USA under those names, regardless of when it was made. Like, I'm imagining someone going through the flowchart thinking "Nope, I'm seeing something called the Sacrum Imperium Romanum, but no Holy Roman Empire." 13:00, 27 January 2023 (UTC)

Hey guys the spiders never showed up :( 20:36, 22 January 2024 (UTC)

I know right. Massive shame. Maybe they're just waiting... Biding their time. OmniDoom (talk) 23:51, 5 March 2024 (UTC)