An anatopism (from the Greek ανα, "against," and τόπος, "place") is something that is out of its proper place. Thus, for example, an outrigger canoe would be an anatopism in ancient Rome.

The concept of anatopism is less widely familiar than that of anachronism, perhaps because much that is anatopistic is also anachronistic. Yet the distinction is a valid one; not all that is anatopistic is necessarily also anachronistic.


Catherine Hardwicke's 2006 film, The Nativity Story, shows a field of maize corn in a Nazareth farming scene. Maize is native to Mesoamerica, not to the Middle East, and in pre-Columbian times was grown only in the Americas. The use of maize in this film is an anatopism as well as an anachronism.

John Ford's much-lauded 1939 film Stagecoach was filmed in Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border, but textually set in southern Arizona and southern New Mexico. The vegetation and topography of Monument Valley and the lower-altitude deserts are vastly different, rendering the film's actual location notably anatopic.

The Polish writer Bolesław Prus, for the sake of making a point, introduces into chapter 63 of his historical novel Pharaoh, set in the ancient Egypt of 1087–1085 BCE, a substance that behaves like gunpowder.[1] This appears to be both an anachronism and an anatopism, since gunpowder is thought to have been invented, some time later, in China or in Arabia. Another apparent anatopism introduced by the author (in chapter 45) is an object that resembles a telescope,[2] that may also be an anachronism.

See also



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