Exploring Modern Maps of the Horn of Africa (18th-20th c.)
Discover or Rediscover Historical Maps

Northeastern Africa is marked by an especially rich and ancient political and cultural history, ethnic diversity and a very rich corpus of historical and cultural source material.

This includes centuries local centuries-old historiographies and cartographies of the different historical states of northeastern Africa. These were most prominently Christian Ethiopia and several Muslim sultanates and emirates, but also the unwritten oral historiographies of other southern kingdoms, such as Kefa and Oromo states, and “tribal republics”. Cartographic depictions of these territories were produced by foreign researchers and co-produced by often anonymous local informants and collaborators such as traditional scholars, merchants and officials of Christian Ethiopia or some neighboring kingdoms, which have since disappeared.

How it works?

The ETHIOMAP website combines online visualization and indexation tools to explore and study a collection of historical maps of northeastern African territories. If places found within today’s boundaries of Ethiopia are topographically central in the collection, hence the project’s name, other places related to neighbouring countries are also part of the work. The scope of the research is limited to maps dated from 1790 to 1944, which are deemed to be important as these represent either scientific advances or historical turning points.

For each map of the corpus, all written information is indexed and described according to categories specific to the document’s internal structure. Custom lists of items can be generated through filters (by zone, by category). Each item is clickable and shows its position on the map.

In order to explore the whole collection, all indexed items will be gathered into a common general thesaurus of reference transcriptions. Each reference entry of this thesaurus will open to a list of the different maps in which a single place–name can be found with its different spellings.


MAPS LIST - To explore the maps, go to the "Maps" section of the website. All maps that have been indexed so far are listed by chronological order.

MAPS DESCRIPTION - Click on the thumbnail to get a detailed description of the map.

MAPS EXPLORATION - On the map description page, click again on the thumbnail to access the exploration dashboard.

VISUAL INTERFACE - The open-source visualization tool ("Leaflet") allows a fluid navigation to explore each map by zooming and moving around. Maps cannot be downloaded.

INDEX - Indexes of topographical items found on the map can be generated by using the following filters: by category (eg.: place, relief, water body...); by initial letter; by position on the map’s grid. Different filters can be used together for a more focused selection. After filters have been selected, click on the "show" button to display the itemized list.

LOCATING ITEMS - There are two ways to locate displayed items.

  • Each indexed item is clickable to find its position on the map.
  • At the top of the list, next to the number of displayed items, there is a blue target to click to show all listed items on the map.

ANALYSIS - The description of each item provides different kinds of information:

  • additional information written on the map (eg.: altitude, date, physical information, or question marks [?] for uncertain location)
  • explanations or question marks of the indexing team.
  • category of the item in the map’s internal structure (preceded by the abbreviation cat.)
  • localization in the map’s grid, preceded by the abbreviation loc.
  • reference transcription (when available), preceded by the abbreviation tr.

We hope you have a pleasant journey into cartography!

General project information

 Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-France).
 Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG-Germany).

Research Partners
 in France: Centre d’étude en sciences sociales du religieux (CéSOr); École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Paris.
 in Germany: Forschungszentrum Gotha der Universität Erfurt; Forschungsbibliothek Gotha der Universität Erfurt/Sammlung Perthes.
 in Ethiopia: Centre français des études éthiopiennes (CFEE); Mekelle University (MU).

Project Heads
 Eloi Ficquet, EHESS, Paris.
 Wolbert Smidt, Mekelle University (Ethiopia), Forschungszentrum Gotha der Universität Erfurt.