Indigenous maps in the historiography of Brazilian explorations
André Reyes Novaes
These maps have a prominent place in Brazilian historiography on Indigenous cartography. The map made in the 18th century is part of a collection of maps found and classified by the Portuguese scholar Jaime Cortesão at the National Library of Rio de Janeiro. The map portrayed an unknown territory for the colonial government and was classified by Cortesão as a hybrid artefact, deeply influenced by an "Indigenous art". To endorse his argument, Cortesão quoted the Brazilian historian Sergio Buarque de Holanda, considering his comments about the map published by Karl von den Steinen in 1886. According to Holanda, the map made by the German explorer with the Xingu Indians demonstrated how Indigenous cartography provided "rigorous use of previous experience, in schemes where everything aims utility." According to Cortesão and Holanda, the depiction of waterfalls and river's sinuosity suggests a common graphic language among the Indigenous people in Brazil.
Idea da topographia athe as novas minas de Cujaba
Idea da topographia athe as novas minas de Cujaba. Author unknown. 18th century. Biblioteca Nacional do Rio de Janeiro. (ARC.030,01,005)
This map is an 18th century manuscript depicting the main rivers between São Paulo and the "new mines" in Cuiabá. The Portuguese scholar Jaime Cortesão classified this map as a "hybrid", produced during the encounter between explorers (bandeirantes) and Indigenous people.
Wie der Suyä-HäuptliDg das Quellgebiet des Sehingü aufzeichnete (Translation: "How the Suyä chief recorded the headwaters of the Sehingü".)
Wie der Suyä-HäuptliDg das Quellgebiet des Sehingü aufzeichnete (Translation: "How the Suyä chief recorded the headwaters of the Sehingü".) "Suyä chief", published by Karl von den Steinen. 1886. von den Steinen K (1886) Durch Central-Brasilien. Expedition. Zur Erforschung des Schingú. F. A. Brockhaus, Leipzig, 214.
This map was published by the German explorer Karl von den Steinen in 1886 after his exploration at Xingu River in 1884. The map shows how the "Suyä chief recorded the headwaters of the Sehingü", and was quoted by Portuguese and Brazilian historians to identify a "native cartographic art" (Cortesão 2009, 234).
André Reyes Novaes is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Geography at the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is currently an Honorary Research Associate at the Royal Holloway University of London and a member of the Commission on the History of Geography of the International Geographical Union.