Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Eloi FICQUET, EHESS, Paris, France

By proposing some insights on the processes and limits of scientific cumulativity involved in map-making and, this contribution on the history of Ethiopian cartography will try to reveal the wealth of information that can be found in the layered strata of ‘waste’ data. Like any scientific work, and may be in a more systematic way, map-makers copy each other; take information from one another; ascertain places that were already located and printed; refine measures and positioning of more hypothetical positions; revise published information by crossing them with direct observations from the field, and eventually add new items on previously uncharted lands. The description of these operations of scientific history involves complex technologies of data management. In this perspective, the ETHIOMAP project (EHESS; Erfurt University; CFEE) has undertaken the systematic study of a series of old maps of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa region since Ludolf’s map published in 1683 that was based on a colligation of information collected by the Jesuits and first hand geographic knowledge from an Ethiopian informant, Abba Gorgoryos. Other maps studied in this corpus considered as nodes in the corpus for they brought new information based on field research. The online database provides detailed indexation of each map. It also allows cross-indexing between maps to refer different orthographies of toponyms to a reference transcription. For instance ‘Aouache’, ‘Hawash’, ‘Hauasch’… for Awaš. This systematic work has revealed a number of toponyms that cannot be cross-referenced, that we propose to call “orphan toponyms” for they are not inscribed in a genealogy of cumulative knowledge. The collection of these “orphan toponyms” may provide orientations for research on neglected areas and guides for rediscovering sources.
See Ethiomap website: ethiomap.huma-num.f