Maps of Africa
The Maps of Africa in this section span over a very large area and time frame. These maps were produced by many different cartographers over the years, providing a rich array of African maps to choose from.
The earliest maps of Africa may be the petroglyphs found in the Sahara Desert and southern Africa. The first printed representations of northern Africa, drawn by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the second century AD, dominated European ideas about African geography until Portuguese explorers redrew the continent's coastal profile during the Renaissance. The first complete coastal depiction of the continent was made after Portuguese seamen rounded Africa's southern tip in the fifteenth century.
Maps of Africa
If the Chinese had continued their maritime explorations of Africa, they may have rounded the Cape of Good Hope before the Portuguese, though coming from the opposite direction. Chinese charts of the East Coast were well developed by the time of China's premiere military leader and explorer Cheng Ho died in the 1430s. Cheng Ho's death marked the end of China's mapping and maritime expeditions in Africa.
At the height of Dutch map making one of the most desirable maps of the "dark continent" ever produced was by Willem Blaeu, for it contains a fascinating combination of accurate and erroneous geographic detail and superb decorative features. The coast of Africa, which was quite well known by the Dutch at this time-as demonstrated by the accurate shape of the continent, is filled with details of bays, capes, rivers and the like. Though relatively little was known of the interior, Blaeu fills it with place names, lakes, rivers, among which are the two lakes that were supposed to be the source of the Nile, located just below the "Lunae Montes." Also included is a delightful assortment of vignettes of animals of various sorts, including crocodiles, elephants, and monkeys. The sea too is brimming with illustrations, of ships and sea creatures, including a school of flying fish, an exotic sea horse, and some sea monsters. The map is surrounded by carefully drawn views of African towns along the top and costumes of various peoples of the continent along the sides. Two hundred years later, as Europeans penetrated Africa in search of resources and scientific data, detailed cartographic descriptions of Africa's interior began to fill in.
King Leopold of Belgium
From 1874 to 1877, H.M. Stanley's second expedition into Central Africa explored from the east coast, up to Lake Victoria, and then ending on the Congo. Inspired by Stanley's reports of the rich potential of this region, King Leopold of Belgium, in 1876, founded the International Association for the Exploration and Civilization of Central Africa. The Belgians were not the only European power interested in this region. The Portuguese had control of the mouth of the Congo River, with the French controlling the north side and the International Association the southern side and most of the vast interior. By 1884 the Association had become the Congo State, which the following year lost any International nature, becoming the personal possession of King Leopold. In the meantime, France, Germany, Britain, and the Portuguese jockeyed for land in the rest of Central Africa, making treaties and exerting power without much regard for native African wishes.
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