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Hanno the Navigator Explored Africa's Coast in Ancient Times

Hanno the Navigator, from Tunisia, Africa, was one of the most important explorers of the 5th century B.C. His journey down the coast of Africa, took him thousands of miles, as he mapped new landmarks.

It’s believed Hanno was a king and seemed to be born into a family fascinated with science, geography, and exploration. From his home city of Carthage, he sailed south in search of new resources and trading opportunities, bringing cultural exchange, an important aspect of African history.

Hanno sailed to various places in Africa. He was best known for his naval exploration off the western coast of Africa. However, the only record of his long voyage is in a periplus (manuscript), a document listing ports, coastal landmarks, and approximate distances. The ships in this era weren’t meant for rigorous sailing as they were made out of wood and had a single sail. Also, considering the technology and knowledge of the time, compasses weren’t used in sailing and instead, people had to depend on the stars for navigation.

Hanno’s voyages became one of the most celebrated in discovery, so famous even Greek historians wrote about him in several ancient texts and sources. Historians aren’t certain about how far Hanno traveled but suggest that he reached either Sierra Leone or went farther south to Gabon. If true, that would mean the length of his expeditions was almost 3,000 miles round trip.

As the center of a huge, successful trade network, also pioneering in science and navigation, Carthage was very powerful. Unfortunately, due to three excessive wars against the Roman Empire, Carthage’s prominence was lost along with the history of early explorers like Hanno.

[Source: World History Encyclopedia; National Geographic Society]

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