Article ID: CBB525916911

Charting the Unknown: Islamic Cartography and Visions of Africa in the ‘Abbasid Era (2019)


This article explores cartographic methods during the ninth and tenth century of the ‘Abbasid Caliphate, with a focus on the deformation of Sub-Saharan Africa in world maps produced during the early era. It reviews the preceding influences that factored into how ‘Abbasid cartographers understood and mapped out unknown regions alongside pieces of the folkloric fear that accompanied the idea of al-Wāq-Wāq, that is the uncharted and unknown areas of inland Africa south of the Sahara. By reviewing the methods and techniques of map making alongside information that circulated about al-Wāq-Wāq, this article offers a contribution to knowledge about cartographic practices during the ‘Abbassid era and reviews the work of prominent geographers alongside the deformations in their maps and social assumptions they carried about what and who rested within the interiors of Africa., Cet article explore les méthodes cartographiques du califat abbasside aux IXe et Xe siècles, en mettant l’accent sur la déformation de l’Afrique subsaharienne dans les cartes du monde produites au début de cette période. Il passe en revue leurs influences antérieures expliquant comment les cartographes abbassides ont compris et cartographié des régions inconnues et comment cette cartographie reflétait une peur folklorique qui accompagnait l’idée d’al-Wāq-Wāq, c’est-à-dire les régions inconnues et non cartographiées de l’Afrique continentale au sud du Sahara. En examinant les méthodes et les techniques de cartographie parallèlement aux informations circulant sur al-Wāq-Wāq, cet article apporte une contribution à la connaissance des pratiques cartographiques de l’ère abbasside et analyse le travail de géographes renommés ainsi que les déformations de leurs cartes et les présupposés qu’elles contenaient sur les habitants et ce qui pouvait se trouver à l’intérieur de l’Afrique.

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Authors & Contributors
Hiatt, Alfred
Morin, Karen M.
Hashemi, S. Ahmad
Akerman, James R.
Edney, Matthew H.
Nanda, Vivek
Imago Mundi: A Review of Early Cartography
Tarikh-e Elm (The Iranian Journal for the History of Science)
Medieval Encounters
Bodleian Library
University of Chicago Press
National Museum, New Delhi
UCL Press
Maps; atlases
Science and society
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
Science, general histories
Visual representation; visual communication
Daly, Charles Patrick
Hunain Ibn Ishaq, Abu Zaid, Al-'Ibadi
Batschelet, Clarence
Mīrzā Malkum, Khān
Senior, William
Cavendish, William, Duke of Newcastle
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
9th century
18th century
United States
Mediterranean region
American Geographical Society
United States. Census Bureau

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