Category: Mapping Africa

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Emphasising the Unknown. The Emergence of Blank Spaces on 19th-century Maps of Africa

European exploration of Africa in the 19th century was based on the assumption that only little was known about the interior of the continent. For decades, geographical societies, cartographers, travellers and others repeatedly emphasised that the maps consisted of little more than just blank spaces which should be filled out in order to open up new trade opportunities, extend political...

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Mapping an Entangled Past: An Interconnected Historical Map of Kafa (South-West Ethiopia) by Friedrich Julius Bieber (1905)

The development of the European cartography of north-east Africa was strongly associated with the 18th-, 19th‑ and early 20th-century missionaries and explorers. These travellers’ insights were informed by the local knowledge of indigenous people. Prior to the mid-19th century, European geographic knowledge about the diverse kingdoms in the south and south-west of Ethiopia was sparse compared to the more northern...

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Milash as a Border-Marking Concept in the Setting of the Geohistory of Northern Ethiopia: The Case of Mereb-Milash

Northern Abyssinia (northern Ethiopia) is home to the ancient Aksumite Kingdom. Although its capital was in Aksum, the cultural boundaries of the kingdom extended as far as the modern state of Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula. According to Ethiopian and Eritrean sources, local borders were formulated using indigenous techniques to separate autonomous and semi-autonomous provinces. Borders that fall under this...

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The Cartographies of Africa and Asia Project Meets Ethiopia

The Centre for Transcultural Studies in Gotha hosted the annual meeting of a network of scholars in residence from Ethiopia at the 20th and 21st October 2022. The Gerda Henkel Foundation’s unfaltering support enables them, despite the civil war in Ethiopia, to continue their research in cities throughout Germany and Europe; the Centre for Transcultural Studies being a vital partner of the...

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Unveiling Map Making: A Cartographer’s Account

On Friday, May 4, 1906, Bruno Domann left his desk at the Perthes publishing house in Gotha carrying travel accounts, maps and instruments. However, he did not take the materials home in order to finish maps for the new printing run of the Stieler’s Hand-Atlas or Petermann’s Geographische Mittheilungen. Domann was on his way to the inn Zum Schützen, where...

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Perthes and Heinrich Barth: Publishing (as) a German Success Story – Part II

One of the most important legacies of August Petermann was undoubtedly his founding and editorship of the Mittheilungen aus Justus Perthes’ Geographischer Anstalt (later Petermann’s Geographische Mittheilungen, or PGM) in 1855, a scientific and cartographical journal that was widely received by expert communities as well as by an interested general public. Given its wide distribution and general acclaim, the journal...

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