East African Ground Maps

Sabatele's Map of the Main Caravan Routes in East Africa

Sabatele’s map of the main caravan routes in East Africa. Paper and pencil. This map with its southerly orientation traces the main caravan routes across Tanzania, with the terminus points placed at Dar es Salaam. Size of the original: unknown. Current location: unknown. Photograph courtesy of the Archiv Museum fur Volkerkunde za Leipzig (Neg. Af 0 1428; from the originial glass plate negative).

The scene of Africans drawing ground maps to the profound surprise of Europeans is a recurring theme of the exploration literature. The German geographer Karl Weule was “overwhelmed” by the number of maps members of his caravan produced during a six-month research expedition through German East Africa in 1906. Between marches, he supplied his carriers with paper and pencils to see what they would draw. This is the map made by a Mambwe man named Sabatele, originally from the southern shore of Lake Tanganyika near the present Tanzania-Zambia border. The map, which traces caravan routes across Tanzania, was made in Lindi at the very beginning of Weule’s expedition. Weule notes that Sabatele’s map was oriented with south at the top, but he turned it around 180 degrees “in order to bring it into agreement with our maps.”

Source: The History of Cartography, Volume 2, Book 3: Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean. Edited by David Woodward and G. Malcolm Lewis ©1998

Locations on this map:
1. “Mawopanda,” Dar es Salaam
2. “Lufu,” the Ruvu River, a large river frequently crossed on the main caravan road by Wanyamwezi carriers, one of whom created this map
3. “Mulokolo,” Morogoro, the terminus for the central railway at the time
4. “Mgata,” Makata, plain between the Uluguru and Rubeho mountains, a swamp during the rainy season
5. “Kirosa,” Kilosa
6. “Balabala,” the caravan road
7. “Mwapwa,” Mpwapwa, the old caravan center, once the last stop on the inland march before the great alkali desert, Marenga Mkali, and hostile Ogogo
8. Mutiwe, a stream near Kilimatinde
9. Kilimatinde, a mountain
10. Kasanga
11. Kondoa-Irangi
12. Post of Kalama, in Iramba (Mkalama?)
13a. “Tobola,” Tabora, with the new boma (enclosure/fort)
13b. “Tobola ya zamani,” Old Tabora with the former boma
14. Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika
15. Mwanza on Lake Victoria

Inuit Cartography


In Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), the Inuit people are known for carving portable maps out of driftwood to be used while navigating coastal waters. These pieces, which are small enough to be carried in a mitten, represent coastlines in a continuous line, up one side of the wood and down the other. The maps are compact, buoyant, and can be read in the dark.

These three wooden maps show the journey from Sermiligaaq to Kangertittivatsiaq, on Greenland’s East Coast. The map to the right shows the islands along the coast, while the map in the middle shows the mainland and is read from one side of the block around to the other. The map to the left shows the peninsula between the Sermiligaaq and Kangertivartikajik fjords.

Source: Topografisk Atlas Grønland

Pine Ridge in Lakota (No. 2)


Wazí Aháŋhaŋ Oyáŋke (The Pine Ridge Reservation) in Lakȟótiyapi (Lakota).
Map by Jordan Engel

Lakota place name – English place name (Translation)
Bló Wakpála – Potato Creek (Potato Creek)
Čaŋkpé Opí – Wounded Knee (Wounded Knee)
Čaŋkpé Opí Wakpála – Wounded Knee Creek (Wounded Knee Creek)
Čhaŋnúŋpa Sápa Wakpála – Black Pipe Creek (Black Pipe Creek)
Čhasmú Makȟóčhe – The Sand Hills (Sand Country)
Hokhíyoȟloka Wakpála – Pass Creek
Íŋyaŋ Šála – Batesland (Red Stone)
Makȟásaŋ – Whiteclay (Whiteish or Yellowish Clay)
Makȟásaŋ Wakpála – Whiteclay Creek (Whiteish or Yellowish Clay Creek)
Makhízita Čík’ala – Little White River
Makhízita Wakpá – White River
Makȟóšiča – The Badlands (Bad Land)
Makȟóšiča Otȟúŋwahe – Interior (Bad Land Village)
Matȟó Wakpála – Bear-In-The-Lodge Creek (Bear Creek)
Oglála – Oglala (To Scatter One’s Own)
Ógle Šá – Red Shirt (Red Shirt) (Also known as Ógle Lúta)
Oyúȟpe – Manderson (The name of a band of the Oglala)
Pahá Zípela – Slim Butte (Thin Butte)
Pažóla Otȟúŋwahe – Martin (Knoll City)
Pȟahíŋ Pahá – Porcupine Butte (Porcupine Butte)
Pȟahíŋ Siŋté – Porcupine (Young Porcupine)
Pȟahíŋ Siŋté Wakpála – Porcupine Creek (Young Porcupine Creek)
Phežúta Ȟaká – Kyle (Branched Medicine)
Phežúta Ȟaká Wakpála – Medicine Root Creek (Branched Medicine Creek)
Wagmíza Wakpála – Allen (Corn Creek)
Wakpá Wašté – Cheyenne River (Good River)
Waŋblí Hoȟpi – Wanblee (Eagle Nest)
Waŋblí Hoȟpi Pahá – Eagle Butte (Eagle Nest Butte)
Waŋblí Hoȟpi Wakpála – Eagle Nest Creek (Eagle Nest Creek)
Wazí Aháŋhaŋ Oyáŋke – The Pine Ridge Reservation
Wazíbló – Pine Ridge

Danish Colonialism Reversed


Denmark (2004) by Asmund Havsteen-Mikkelsen and Inuk Silis Hoegh

“As part of my joint project Melting Barricades (2004-2005) with Inuk Silis Høegh I conceived the idea for the map of Denmark on the way to Kangerlussuaq looking at an in-flight magazine from Air Greenland. From the plane you could see all the beautiful glaciers with Danish royal names. What if Greenland did the same in Denmark, but with ice and new names? It was a sarcastic comment to the good and bad sides of the colonial era, but also to the ”big brother” Denmark, who were warring in Afghanistan. The map of Denmark has been exhibited various places and appeared in many different contexts – having a direct appeal to many people. In 2012 it was used as a stamp by Post Greenland, and most recently (2014) I printed it on a t-shirt.”
– Asmund Havsteen-Mikkelsen

Source: www.asmundhavsteen.net

Shoshoni Map Rock


On the left is a line drawing of the Shoshoni Map Rock, delineating and identifying selected features. On the right is a map of the corresponding area. The interpretation is based in part on a letter by from E.T. Perkins Jr. (1897) and on a typescript from J.T. Harrington (n.d.) Features 2-10 are hydrological, 11-14 are conspicuous peaks, 15-18 are watersheds, and 19-23 are animal features. Source: Cartography in the Traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian, and Pacific Societies by David Woodward and G. Malcolm Lewis


This basalt petroglyph in Southwest Idaho, near the banks of the Snake River, is exemplary of indigenous cartography which is derived from and passed down by oral tradition and memory. It has long been interpreted as a map of the upper Snake River country, made by a pre-colonial Shoshoni cartographer. Both the Snake and Salmon Rivers can be observed in the design, alongside images of many animals of the region. Buffalo, deer, mountain sheep, elk, antelope, and human figures are present. The richest hunting area within the Shoshoni homeland was in this northeastern area, where the basins meet the mountains, and the ecological diversity is great.


Endonyms of Africa


Endonyms of Africa. Map by Jordan Engel

The map of Africa that most of us know today was drawn during the era of European colonialism – from the borders which divided the continent, to the erasure of indigenous place names.

This map seeks to remedy colonial cartography by erasing the borders, orienting to the South (in the tradition of 11th century Amaziɣ cartographer Muhammad al-Idrisi), and labeling locations in their predominant native language.

Below, you’ll find a list of all locations on this map:

Abidjan – Abidjan (Ebrié)

Accra – Nkran (Akan)
Addis Ababa – አዲስ አበባ / Addis Abäba (አማርኛ [Amharic], “new flower”)
Alexandria – الإسكندرية / al-Iskandariyyah (العربية [Arabic])
Algiers – ⴷⵣⴰⵢⵜ (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber])
Antananarivo – Antananarivo (Malagasy)
Atlas Mountains – ⵉⴷⵓⵔⴰⵔ ⵏ ⵡⴰⵟⵍⴰⵚ / Idurar n Waṭlaṣ (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber])
Cairo – القاهرة‎ / al-Qāhirah (العربية [Arabic])
Canary Islands – ⴽⴰⵏⴰⵔⵉⴰ / Kanaria (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber])
Cape Town – //Hui !Gaeb (Khoekhoegowab [Khoekhoe], “where the clouds gather”)
Casablanca – ⴰⵏⴼⴰ / Anfa (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber])
Comoro Islands – Komori (Shikomori [Comorian])
Conakry – Kɔnakiri (Sosoxui [Susu], “other bank”)
Dakar – Ndakaaru (Wolof)
Dar es Salaam – Dar es Salaam (Kiswahili [Swahili])
Drakensberg – uKhahlamba (isiZulu [Zulu], “barrier of up-pointed spears”)
Durban – iTheku (isiZulu [Zulu], “bay/lagoon”)
Harare – Harare (ChiShona [Shona])
Hoggar Mountains – ⵉⴷⵓⵔⴰⵔ ⵏ ⴰⵀⴰⴳⴳⴰⵔ / Idurar n Ahaggar (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber])
Horn of Africa – Geeska Afrika (Af-Soomaali [Somali])
Johannesburg – iGoli (isiZulu [Zulu])
Kalahari Desert – Kgalagadi (Tswana, “a waterless place”)
Kampala – Kampala (Oluganda [Luganda])
Kano – Kano (Hausa)
Kinshasa – Kinsásá (Lingála [Lingala])
Khartoum – الخرطوم / al-Kharṭūm (Arabic)
Lagos – Èkó (Yoruba)
Lake Chad – Sádǝ (Kanuri)
Lake Malawi – Nyanja ya Malawi (Chi-Chewa [Chewa])
Lake Tanganyika – Ikiyaga Tanganyika (Kirundi)
Lake Turkana: Anam Ka’alakol (Ng’aturk(w)ana [Turkana])
Lake Victoria – Nalubaale (Oluganda [Luganda])
Luanda – Lwanda (Kimbundu)
Lusaka – Lusaka (Chi-Chewa [Chewa])
Madagascar – Madagasikara (Malagasy)
Maputo – iMaputo (SiSwati [Swati])
Mogadishu – Muqdisho (Af-Soomaali [Somali])
Mount Cameroon – Mongo ma Ndemi (Kpwe, “mountain of greatness”)
Mount Kenya – Kĩrĩnyaga (Gĩkũyũ [Kikuyu], “where God Lives”)
Mount Kilimanjaro – Ol Doinyo Oibor (ɔl Maa [Maasai], “mountain which is white”)
Nairobi – Enkare Nairobi (ɔl Maa [Massai], “Place of cool waters”)
Namib Desert – Namib (Nama, “vast place”)
Niamey – Niamey (Zarma)
Ras Dashen – ራስ ደጀን / Rās Dejen (አማርኛ [Amharic], “head guard”)
Sahara Desert – ⵜⵉⵏⴰⵔⵉⵓⴻⵏ / Tinariwen (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber], “the deserts”)
Sinai Peninsula – سينا / Sīna (العربية [Arabic])
Thabana Ntlenyana – Thabana Ntlenyana (Sesotho [Sotho], “beautiful little mountain”)
Toubkal – ⵜⵓⴱⵇⴰⵍ / Tubqal (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber])
Tripoli – – ⵟⵔⴰⴱⵍⵙ / Ṭrables (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber])
Zanzibar Island – Unguja (Kiswahili [Swahili])

Land of the Berbers

Tamazɣa / ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵖⴰ (The Maghreb) in Tamaziɣt / ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ (Berber), by Jordan Engel

Tamazɣa / ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵖⴰ (The Maghreb) in Tamaziɣt / ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ (Berber), by Jordan Engel

Tamaziɣt / ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ (Berber) is a family of closely related languages indigenous to North Africa. Tamaziɣt is sometimes written in the Berber Latin alphabet, the Arabic script, or the Tifinaɣ script. The latter, which is the script used in this map, has been used for over 2,000 years by the Berber people. Because the word “Berber” is considered derogatory (derived from Greek word for barbarian), the people instead call themselves Imaziɣen / ⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⴻⵏ (singular – Amaziɣ), meaning “free people.” However, freedom has been a long struggle for the Imaziɣen. Under French colonial rule in North Africa, all languages other than French were banned in public life. After independence, all the Maghreb countries to varying degrees pursued a policy of Arabization, aimed partly at displacing French as the dominant language. Under this policy the use of Tamaziɣt was suppressed or even banned. In Libya, the regime of Gaddafi consistently banned the Tifinaɣ script from being used in public contexts such as store displays. Under the rule of King Hassan II in Morocco, thousands of Imaziɣen were imprisoned, tortured, or killed by state violence.There is now a large political-cultural movement in the Maghreb known as Timmuzɣa (Berberism) which, among other goals, seeks to unite Imaziɣen across colonial borders. One group, the Tuareg people, rebelled against the government of Mali in 2012 to form a de facto independent state called Azawad / ⴰⵣⴰⵡⴰⴷ. In the 1970s, activists began to refer to the Maghreb – the region of North Africa including Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya – as Tamazɣa / ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵖⴰ (“Land of the Berbers”).

This map is oriented South-up in a homage to Muhammad al-Idrisi, an 11th century Amaziɣ cartographer from ⵙⴰⴱⵜⴰ (Cueta – now a Spanish exclave in North Africa). His famously accurate map of the known world, the Nuzhat al-mushtāq fi’khtirāq al-āfāq, was also made in this orientation.

List of place names:
English – Tifinaɣ script / Berber Latin alphabet

Adrar, Algeria – ⴰⴷⵔⴰⵔ
Adrar des Ifoghas (Mali) – ⴰⴷⵔⴰⵔ ⵏ ⵉⴼⵓⵖⴰⵙ / Adrar n Ifoghas
Africa – ⵜⴰⴼⴻⵔⴽⴰ / Taferka
Agadir, Morocco – ⴰⴳⴰⴷⵉⵔ / Agadir
Algiers, Algeria – ⴷⵣⴰⵢⵜ
Annaba, Algeria – ⵄⴻⵏⵏⴰⴱⴰ – Ɛennaba
Atlas Mountains – ⵉⴷⵓⵔⴰⵔ ⵏ ⵡⴰⵟⵍⴰⵚ / Idurar n Waṭlaṣ
Béchar, Algeria – ⴱⴻⵛⵛⴰⵔ / Beccar
Biskra, Algeria – ⵜⵉⴱⴻⵙⴽⴻⵔⵜ / Tibeskert
Casablanca, Morocco – ⴰⵏⴼⴰ / Anfa
Constantine, Algeria – ⵇⵙⵏⵟⵉⵏⴰ / Qsenṭina
Europe – ⵓⵕⵓⵒ / Uṛup
Fez, Morocco – ⴼⴰⵙ / Fas
Gao, Mali – ⴳⴰⵡ

Ghardaïa, Algeria –  ⵜⴰⵖⵔⴷⴰⵢⵜ / Taɣerdayt
Hoggar Mountains (Algeria) – ⵉⴷⵓⵔⴰⵔ ⵏ ⴰⵀⴰⴳⴳⴰⵔ / Idurar n Ahaggar
Kidal, Mali – ⴾⴸⵍ / Kidal
Laayoune, Western Sahara – ⵍⵄⵢⵓⵏ / Leɛyun
Marrakesh, Morocco – ⵎⵕⵕⴰⴽⵛ / Mṛṛakc
Mediterranean Sea – ⵉⵍⴻⵍ ⴰⴳⵔⴰⴽⴰⵍ / Ilel Agrakal
Meknès, Morocco  – ⵎⴽⵏⴰⵙ
Nouakchott, Mauritania – ⵏⵡⴰⴽⵛⵓⵟ / Nawākšūṭ
Oran, Algeria – ⵡⴻⵀⵔⴰⵏ / Wehran
Oujda, Morocco – ⵡⴻⵊⴷⴰ / Wejda
Rabat, Morocco – ⴰⵕⴱⴰⵟ  / Aṛbaṭ
The Rif (Morocco) – ⴰⵔⵉⴼ / Arif
Safi, Morocco – ⴰⵙⴼⵉ / Āsfī
Sahara Desert – ⵜⵉⵏⴰⵔⵉⵓⴻⵏ / Tinariwen (To the Tuareg, the Sahara is not one desert but many, so they call it Tinariwen, which means “the deserts.”)
Siwa Oasis, Egypt – ⵙⵉⵡⴰ
Sousse, Tunisia – ⵙⵓⵙⴰ / Susa
Tamanrasset, Algeria – ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵏⵖⴰⵙⴻⵜ
Tangier, Morocco – ⵟⴰⵏⴶⴰ / Tanja
Timbuktu, Mali – ⵝⵓⵎⴱⵓⴽⵜⵓ
Tindouf, Algeria – ⵜⵉⵏⴷⵓⴼ / Tinduf
Toubkal (Morocco) – ⵜⵓⴱⵇⴰⵍ / Tubqal
Tripoli, Libya – ⵟⵔⴰⴱⵍⵙ / Ṭrables
Tunis, Tunisia – ⵜⵓⵏⵙ / Tunes