The first known African map, by the outside world, was created in 1554 by Sebastian Munster a German mathematician, geographer, and professor of Hebrew at Heidelberg and subsequently, Basel. He drew such a historic and monumental map without even stepping into Africa. How interesting!!!
Even though it is probable that Africa must have been mapped out during the pharaonic civilization, by the ancient Egyptians, having that they kept a good record of everything around them and went on adventurous journeys in their bid to discover the world around them. However, such documentation was never used by the Europeans who wanted to map Africa. They just went ahead and gave their own version of land that was not their own.
The ancient Egyptians went on military explorations, trade expeditions as well as seagoing adventures to discover new lands and people.
In 1493 BC, the ancient Egyptians went on one of their many expeditions and they inscribed the account of this journey on the walls of the Dier-el-Bahari temple, but there are no records or information about the use of cartographic maps by the ancient Egyptians.
Another account is of Pharaoh Necho’s voyage around the continent during the 6th century BC. It was recorded by Herodotus (484-425BC), the Greek adventurer and historian.
This account, like the former, does not present any evidence that a map was used. According to recent cartographers and geographers, the African continent covers 11,724,000 square miles of the landmass. From Ras Ben Sakka, Tunisia; extreme north of Africa to Cape Agulhas, extreme South of Africa, the continent of Africa measures 5000 miles, and from Cape Verde which is on the extreme West to Ras Hafun, Somalia, on the extreme East, she measures 4,600 miles.
Africa notably is the only continent that is made up of landmasses provided by the northern and southern hemispheres of the earth and is almost equally divided by the equator. Africa also covers 6% of Earth’s estimated total surface area and 20.4% of Earth’s landmass. An archeological discovery of the remains of our earliest human ancestors by the Leakeys in Olduvai Gorge, East Africa prove that Africa is the home and origin of the human race.
Giving that the available information was only cumulated after a number of research works and inquiries by experts in the past century because there are no older documentation of a well mapped out Africa by ancient Egyptians, we can only go as far back as 1554, when the oldest available map was created by Sebastian Munster.
Relative to recent maps, the earliest known map reveals a continent with a bigger landmass. Graphical illustrations of the map feature kingdoms represented by color crowns with staves in the hollow of their interior, river courses, birds, cyclops and an elephant stationed at the southernmost part of the map all surrounded by water. The land area occupied by the Sahara Desert on present-day maps of Africa was in Sebastian’s 1554 map, a dense forest.
There are doubts about the meaning of the mythical cyclops which is on the area of the map where present-day Nigeria and Cameroon are located, with the word “Monoculi” written by the side. Some people claim the Cyclops represents a tribe of one-eyed people that inhabited the part of the map where it is drawn, or it probably is an irrelevant image either put in the map based on stories or for lack of details, having that the maker of the map had not for once been to Africa prior to creating it.
Sebastian Munster created the map of Africa, using woodcut style of printing and gathering his facts from various accounts and fragmentary maps made available to him by touring scholars and geographers of his time. It’s no surprise why important details such as the estimated landmass size and the Island of Madagascar are not found on the map.
More detailed maps of the African continent have since been created all over Europe by other cartographers who were inspired by Sebastian Munster’s 1554 map of Africa.
In light of our complaints about Europeans pushing down their ideas on Africa, the topic a false map speaks volumes. Just like many lies told about Africa, the Map which Africans believed to be the exact representation of their territory is a big lie.
African governments and nations should do their best to tell the African story the factual and African way. We must resist the aggressive attempt by Europeans and their Caucasian brothers to force their perspectives on us.