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Africae Descriptio, Map, 1607

Context

This document is a map of Africa that was published by Gerhard Mercator in 1607. Mercator was a cartographer of great renown and he was very well known for his world map Typus Orbis Terrarum.

While quite detailed and relatively correct in shape, it is not a completely accurate depiction of Africa. Many of the map’s recognizable landmarks, such as the Nile River and what appears to be Lake Victoria, are overly exaggerated and larger than their real life counterparts. It is unlikely that this map was used to navigate the waters to Africa, but it is likely that it would have been studied by someone in the colonies wanting to learn more about Africa.

Citation: Mercator, Gerhard, (1512–1594). Africae Descriptio, 1607. G8200 1607 .M47 Voorhees Collection. Library of Virginia.

Standards

USI.1, USI.2, USI.3, USI.4, CE.1, WG.1, WG.3, WG.9, WG.10, W.17, WHII.1, WHII.2, WHII.4, WHII.7, VUS.1, VUS.2, VUS.3

Suggested Questions

Analyze: Compare this map to a current one. What portions of it are different? Why do you think that the older map has so many differences?
The map shows many settlements close to a source of water – why would this have been important for the Africans living there?
Assuming you had never heard or seen of Africa before, what would your first thought be about the continent based only on seeing this map?

Current Connections: Draw a map of your home town as you know it today, making sure to mark any landmarks that you believe are important. Compare this to a map of the area created within the last 10-20 years and a map created even earlier than that. How does your map compare with the others? What did the other map makers feel was important to include? What did they exclude?

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