World Maps. Details of Africa.
16th-18th c Islamic Islamic Maps & Diagrams
(622 - present)
(622 - present)
Berlin. Staatliche Muséen de Berlin.
During the 15th century the Portuguese had tried to control the gold trade from West Africa that had been under the control of the Muslims. Here we see two maps of Africa, the upper one 18th century Islamic, but based on a much earlier example, and the lower one 16th century European. That shows the Islamic flag controlling the center of Africa and also a great African fortress situated somewhere along the Ivory Coast.
In 1471 the ships of Joaa de Santarem came ashore along the coast of ancient Ghana, in a place he named "Mina" (present day Elmina) because of the hoards of gold found in the surrounding hills. The Portuguese built a secret fort on the site to ward off competitors. (The great building on the lower map may represent this fort) Because the Moslem traders controlled the routes to the interior, the source of most of the gold, the Portuguese did not make much profit from their investment.
The map also shows the famous compass rose with its radiating lines which allowed Portuguese sailors to take their bearings and navigate in the open sea. The Portuguese King Henry the Navigator had played an important role in developing the navigational tools that were to totally change the know world. He gathered both seamen and map makers, many of them Jewish, and set them to work creating maps of the known world. The maps, which marked landfalls all along the coasts, were kept very secret since they were the key to long distance sea travel. For a short time the Portuguese were able to keep their maps secret and thus to control trade down the African coast, and finally around the Horn of Africa to India.
T. ISLAMIC. B. PORTUGUESE |World Maps. Details of Africa. | c. 1500-1799 |T. Islamic B. Portuguese|