International Transmission of Knowledge and Culture

Denise Valentine, Storyteller

In addition to our natural curiosity, certain forces have made travel and the exchange of knowledge both necessary and inevitable. Take a look at exploration, trade and conquest through maps, travelogues and stories of Ancient Exploration.

Image: Liberty Displaying the Arts and Sciences by Samuel Jennings. 1792 Library Company of Philadelphia

Knowledge is…the stuff of incessant talk, collaborative working relationships, personalized stories and constant learning. It is, in fact, no less than the core of human capital. –From the International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management

Maps, Travelogues and Stories of Ancient Exploration

Human beings cannot live in isolation. The exchange of knowledge, ideas, and resources is crucial to a sustainable society. And, since ancient times the desire to explore the unknown has been a driving force in human history. Storytellers and sea merchants have passed down tales of voyages across land and sea to explore that which is known, and that which is not.

  • The world’s oldest surviving guidebook, the Description of Greece, credited to Pausanias, a Greek traveler and geographer, dating back to the second century AD, takes the form of a tour of Greece, starting in Athens.
  • Hanno of Carthage’s Ancient Travelogue Periplus of Carthage. Carthaginian Exploration: The Voyages of Hanno and Himilco.

Migration and Trade

In addition to our natural curiosity, certain forces have made travel and the exchange of knowledge both necessary and inevitable.

  • Natural and forced Migration (Many Middle Passages, Pybus)
  • Subsistence trade, access to resources
  • River flow, fertile soil, tide or monsoons
  • Invasion, conquest

Early “adventurers” were motivated by the desire for conquest, the need to establish trade routes, and hunger for gold. Modern history books begin the age of exploration with the fourteenth century, but there is evidence that exploration between Europe and Asia began much earlier. Travel between Greece and India was common in Alexander the Great’s time. The Han Dynasty of China and the Roman Empire had regular trade relations and even exchanged diplomats.

Maps of exploration and trade

Map of Ibn and Marco travel route 

Africae nova descripto... 1630 (Yale Collection)

Ancient Maps

1630, Africae nova descripto… Amsterdam, Willem Janszoon…

Cartographic Curiosities

World Maps

ARRIAN’S WORLD as depicted by ORTELIUS, 1624“Historical Cartography” scarce original maps from the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum of Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598)…

?1580, Orbis Terrae Compendiosa Descriptio, Based on the work of Mercator, this map shows… sixteenth-century explorations. The verse at the bottom reads:

You are made able to see me, you will see an imitation of the globe duplicated in you – even you are like the world.”                —  Orbis Terrae Compendiosa Descriptio

1703, Repraesentatio Geographica Itineris Maritimi…  Munich, H. Scherer. A view from the North Pole, showing the course of Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe.

The Eye of the Beholder: Africa Through Western Eyes

Exploration of the Unknown, The Ptolemaic World View 1482, Nicolaus Germanus Donnus, Ulm, Yale Map Collection   © 2000 Yale University Library

Art of the Sea…

Mariners Museum documenting nearly 3,000 years of mankind’s experiences on the seas…

Ships of Antiquity: The Egyptian Galleons


Ancient Egyptian Military

Pharaonic Expeditions – 5th Dynasty 2458-2446 BCE

The adventures of seafarers, such as the story of a shipped wrecked sailor from approximately 2200 BCE, were recorded in early Egyptian literature.

Illustrations on wall panels at the funerary complex of Queen Hapshetsut reveal 1000 years of the evolution of ship building in Egypt.

Queen Hatshepsut employed a major expedition led by Nehsi to the Land of Punt was down the Red Sea and into the Indian Ocean.

Prehistoric voyages of discovery can be derived from patterns of trade. By the fourth millennium BC there were trade routes connecting Mesopotamia with the Indus valley. Over 4400 years ago, the navy of Egyptian Pharaoh Sahure traded goods such as ebony, myrrh and frankincense, gold and copper for Lebanon cedar and traveled the length of the Red Sea to the Kingdom of Punt, modern Ethiopia and Somalia for ebony, ivory and aromatic resins.

Harkhuf’s Story

Awesome multimedia site: maps, timelines, galleries, toolkit for educators

Ancient records of Egypt: historical documents from the earliest times to the Persian conquest, Volume 1. James Henry Breasted The University of Chicago Press, 1906.


Modern Day Old World Travelogues

On Travelogues » Old World Wandering A Travelogue

The Epic of Gilgemesh, Illiad and Odessy, Cecil Rhodes, Ibn Battuta, Columbus, Robinson Crusoe [Gullivers Travels] including

Perrottet, Tony, Route 66 A.D.: On The Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists. (2002, Random House) takes us armchair travelers to Troy, the Acropolis in Athens, the lost Colossus of Rhodes.  (NPR audio)

Great Zimbabwe Walls - Midnite - Jubilee Album

Great Zimbabwe Walls – Midnite – Jubilee Album

 WatchYoutube video:

Great Zimbabwe Walls – Midnite – Jubilee Album

They came before Columbus – Dr Ivan Van Sertima
: The African Presence in Ancient America – Lecture full video:

Review of I. van SertimaFemi Akomolafe. They Came before Columbus. Jan 19, 1995

Last Voyage of the Henrietta Marie – The oldest slave ship ever excavated, wrecked off Florida in 1700, is yielding a multitude of artifacts—and blood-curdling history.  

Middle Passage By conservative estimates upward of 10 million Africans survived the Middle Passage and were enslaved in the Americas. More than 90 percent of these Africans were taken to South America and… From Jubilee: The Emergence of African-American Culture, by Howard Dodson, published by National Geographic Books (February 2003) in association with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Real Pirates – National Geographic: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship

The attainment of knowledge and information is both the cause and the result of human interaction. International education facilitates the creation of a global perspective so important to the symbiotic existence of humanity. –Yamamoto_Kuwahara

Future Installments

The Knowledge Economy/Ancient Centers of Learning

Symbiotic exchange of knowledge and culture: mutualistic or parasitic?



Africans in America/Part 1/The Middle Passage:

Age of Exploration, The Mariners’ Museum, Retrieved from:

Altbach, Philip G., Knowledge and Education as International Commodities. International Higher Education, Summer 2002, Boston College Center for International Higher Education.

ARRIAN’S WORLD as depicted by ORTELIUS, 1624 –  “Historical Cartography” scarce original map from the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum of Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598)… (spectacular pics, but weird interpretation: gorilla people, cannibalism)

Bursill-Hall, Piers, The Other Middle East, University of Cambridge,

Description of Greece, New York Public Library, described in:

Emma Christopher, Cassandra Pybus, Marcus Rediker, Marcus Buford Rediker. Many middle passages: forced migration and the making of the modern world. University of California Press, 2007

European Voyages of Exploration / The Applied History Research Group / The University of Calgary, Retrieved from: Gill-Chin Lim, Ed., Strategy for a Global University, Michigan State University,

Map of Ibn and Marco travel route ( image):

PAUSANIAS, DESCRIPTION OF GREECE 1.1 – 16, Classical E-Text PAUSANIAS was the Greek writer who flourished in the C2nd AD. His Description of Greece in ten books is a traveller’s account of sights of historical and 

The First Explorers Retrieved from Discoverers Web (Good leads but some broken links)


About Storymama01

Professional Storyteller, Blogger, Teaching Folk Artist, Cultural Curator, Consultant, History Lover, Humanist
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