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Author Topic: PILLARS OF HERCULES, SEA OF DARKNESS  (Read 3127 times)
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« on: August 19, 2007, 05:38:09 pm »

The Phoenician circumnavigators of Africa were practical seamen unhampered by theory. The Cartha­ginians, as the Phoenician colonists in the western Mediterranean came to be known, must have been aware of their compatriots'
clockwise circumnavigation of Africa. Sometime before 480 BC, the Carthagin­ians sent a large expedition of their own, under a leader called Hanno, in the opposite direction. A Greek version of the original Punic account of this voyage makes it clear that Hanno reached a long way south, past the volcanic mountain he called "The Chariot of the Gods" - probably the 998-meter-high (3273-foot) Mt. Kakoulima in present-day Guinea - and as far as Sierra Leone. On the way he discovered both the Canary and Cape Verde Islands, so important later as staging points for trans-Atlantic voyages. The Cape Verde Islands were not rediscovered until 1455, nearly two thousand years later.

The Canaries are a classic example of how ancient discoveries were made and then lost. Discovered by Hanno in the fifth century BC, they were explored and colonized in 25 BC by Juba II, erudite king of Mauretania and husband of Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Antony and Cleopatra. A passionate art collector, Juba was also interested in science and technology, invent­ing a new method of making purple dye from the orchil plant - and the export of orchil from the Atlan­tic islands was of economic importance until early this century. Juba populated the Canaries with Berber-speaking colonists, perhaps the ancestors of the Guanches. Gradually, knowledge of the location of the Canaries was lost, even though Lanzarote, the island nearest the North African coast, lies less than 100 kilo­meters (60 miles) west of the mainland. The Greeks called the Canary Islands Tōn Makarōn Nēsoi, "The Islands of the Blessed," and they were regarded as the furthest known land to the west. Ptolemy drew his 0° longitude line, or prime meri­dian, through the Canaries; the French continued to do so until the 19th century.

The Canary Islands were rediscovered in the 13th century by a French or Genoese ship blown off course. In 1402 the Normans par­tially conquered them, meeting stiff resistance from the indigenous Guanches. In the mid-15th century, the Spanish took control of the Canaries and continued the conquest. Fighting was still going on when Columbus used the islands as the first stop on all four of his voyages to the Caribbean. The Guanches were not finally subdued until the end of the 16th cen­tury, when they and their language virtually dis­appeared. From the few words of Guanche preserved in the Spanish chronicles, we know they spoke a form of Berber, and were therefore probably descended from Juba's colonists. Yet when Europeans encoun­tered them, they had no memory of the mainland; having no boats, they were unaware that the other islands in the group were inhabited.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2007, 12:26:24 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

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