Page images

doubt, we find a range laid down at this very point, in the map attached to the present volume, upon information, we believe, obtained by Major Laing from a Sheikh of Gadamis. Again, in the name of none of the rivers of Benin, is there any version of that which we have seen to continue so long radically unaltered. The estuaries on that part of the coast make a very formidable appearance on the map; but in general they are sluggish, and almost stagnant waters, partaking of the nature of lakes, bays, and even marshes. Supposing them to drain the southern waters of the great chain, reported as higher than the northern, there will remain no mystery in their streams being very ample. In Benin, there are no Arab caravans, no Mahometan population-nothing which indicates a free intercourse with Soudan. Captain Adams, who traded long on this coast, saw these only at Ardrah, where all the slaves from Houssa assured him that they had come on foot, by a long and laborious journey, and never heard of any communication with the sea by


If the Niger does not reach the Atlantic, we do not think, with all deference to the imperial map of Sultan Bello, that it can be seriously supposed to perform the immense circuit necessary to make it become the Shary, and enter the Tchad under that name. The obstacles would be too mighty; it would have to cross the central chain twice, and to penetrate that abyss of mountains, which extend southward from the kingdom of Mandara. If the question, however, be put, where it does terminate, we must confess that we have certainly no materials for fixing on any precise spot; but that it should terminate in a great lake, similar to the Tchad, has nothing either improbable or anomalous. The present travellers understood that there were great lakes in the country to the south of Sackatoo; and there have been several reports of an immense one at or near Nyffee. This is even laid down by M. Dupuis, in his late map of Central Africa, the errors of which are no doubt extensive; but as this feature is not very distant from Ashantee, where he collected his information, it is not unlikely to be correct. We have no room to comment on the confused and contradictory statements contained in the present volume, representing the Kowara' to fall into the sea at Rakah and Fundah, places which do not exist on any part of the African coast; and we believe they would be found to agree better with the supposition of the receptacle meant being an inland sea, than the ocean.

An attempt has been made to preserve a remnant at least of the theory which identifies the Niger and the Nile, by representing the latter as flowing eastward out of the Tchad. Without speculating on this as a matter of physical possibility, we shall

[ocr errors][merged small]

only remark, that the positive testimony against it appears almost as strong as possible. Major Denham, indeed, was obliged to leave about a third part of that great lake unexplored; but his friend Barca Gana, who had four times made the complete circuit in his military expeditions, declared his perfect assurance, that the lake had no outlet. Tahr, an Arab chief, who had spent a sort of migratory life upon these shores, was equally decisive upon this point; and every other testimony was to the same effect. We presume it to be needless, notwithstanding the authority of Pliny, to discuss the speculation of its waters finding a passage under ground to the Nile. But it has been said, that because the waters of the lake are fresh, therefore it cannot be the final receptacle of the rivers which fall into it. If, however, we consider what is the cause of the usual saltness of lakes that have no outlet, it will at once appear, that this cause can have no application in the present instance. It can only be, that the water poured in by the rivers, holds in solution some saline particles, which, remaining while the fluid evaporates, insensibly accumulate, and render the lake salt. But the feeders of the lake of Bornou flow through a country, in the whole of which there does not exist a single saline particle. They cannot therefore bring any salt into it; and if none enters, none can ever accumulate.

Having obtained, from the present discoveries, a tolerably precise delineation of this most interior part of the African continent, it may be curious, and not without historical interest, to compare with it the successive accounts hitherto received, and the delineations founded upon them by the most eminent geographers. Some of these will be found more accurate than has been generally supposed; and, in others, the being able to trace the sources of error, may serve as a lesson to future inquirers.

We are satisfied, on the whole, that the knowledge possessed by the ancients of this region was limited and vague. The Romans had formed no regular route over the desert; and though some daring adventurers pushed their way across its expanse, their accounts of its extent and dreary character were discredited even by Ptolemy. We cannot, however, assent to the sentence of M. Gosselin, that the knowledge of this geographer did not reach beyond the tract of Barbary, behind the Atlas; though, ignorant of the breadth of the desert, he has no doubt blended the features of that territory with those of Central Africa. In his details of the latter too, there is certainly a good deal of confusion; yet the present information seems to enable us to identify several of his grand features-the Mons Mandrus, for ex

ample, and the branch of the Niger, flowing thence into the great Jake of Nigritia. These objects and features seem to agree with the mountains of Mandara, the lake Tchad, and the river Shary, which in that case will be a fifth Niger. Ptolemy has doubtless placed them much too near the sea; but we suspect that his information, obtained only by the circuitous route between Nubia and Bornou, reached only across a part of the Continent, which he then hypothetically united with the coast of the Atlantic, the existence of which was known to him from other sources.

On the decline of the empire, and the rise of the Saracen power, this part of Africa was brought into more conspicuous notice. When the Caliphat was shaken by the contests between the rival dynasties of the Ommiades and the Fatemites, the vanquished party were impelled in quest of new seats beyond the desert. They introduced the camel and the caravan system, and soon paved as it were a regular route across this hitherto almost impassable ocean of sand. They colonized and conquered the finest part of Soudan, situated along the river, which Mr Clapperton calls Quarrama; but which, in their eye, was the Nile of the Negroes. These settlements excited considerable interest; and the information transmitted respecting them was collected, in that comparative era of Mahommedan light and knowledge, by several geographers of some eminence, among whom Edrisi, in particular, has left somewhat full delineations of them. These, however, were little known in Europe, till D'Anville, in default of more modern materials, introduced their leading positions into the map of Africa, where they have since remained, though subject to much discussion as to their soundness and value. The result of the present expedition appears to us, with exception of the above errors in their river system, to be decidedly in their favour; and we were not a little surprised to find all their leading positions still existing under the relative situation, and even, with such variations as might be expected, under the names which, at that distant period, these writers have assigned to them.

The leading features described as then existing in Central Africa, are the cities of Tocrur and Ghana, both capitals of the kingdoms of the same name, with the cities of Berissa subject to the former, and of Tirka to the latter. Tocrur (called by Bakeri, Takrour) had hitherto eluded all modern inquiry. Major Rennell, having in vain attempted to learn any thing respecting this



tropolis of the central empire of Africa,' concludes, that it exists no longer, or had acquired a different name. We recognise it at once, however, when we find Sultan Bello describing his kingdom as the empire of Takror. Indeed, as in Oriental

names, the s and t are very convertible, it seems likely that Sackatoo is a mere corruption of the same name. This opinion is not in the least shaken by the statement here made, that it has existed only for thirteen years, when we find similar dates assigned to Kassina and Kuku, cities described six hundred years ago by the Arabian writers. The Kings seem to have palmed this recent origin upon our travellers, in the ambition of passing for the founders of these capitals, which perhaps they might enlarge, and raise even from temporary neglect.

Ghana is manifestly the same city as the modern Kano. This superb capital, described then as the pride of interior Africa, has suffered deeply by becoming subject, first, to Kassina, and now to Sackatoo. It still retains, however, its vast circuit, though only partially filled up, its manufactures, superior to any others in Houssa, and its trade, which still attracts crowded caravans from the remotest quarters of the Continent. We discover even the lake or marsh dividing the city into two parts, described by Edrisi, but to which our maps allow an unauthorized magnitude. In Edrisi's time the glass windows of the palace were considered an unique feature in this part of the world. Mr Clapperton observed in the governor's residence a window frame-work in the European style, though it no longer contained any glass.

Mr Clapperton enables us to identify with equal ease the two minor positions of Berissa and Tirka. The former, described as a small, but flourishing and trading city, is clearly recognised in Bershee, which, corresponding to Edrisi's description, is exactly midway between the two great capitals. It is on the opposite side of the river to Kassina, and in the same commercial line, so that it was probably eclipsed by the rise of the latter city; but it appears still to be considerable, and situated in a very fine and beautiful country. Finally, Tirka, at six day's journey to the south-east of Ghana, is fixed both by name and position at Girkwa, which Clapperton and Edrisi alike describe as a large and flourishing city, though not on the same scale as Ghana or Tocrur. The market, however, is said to be superior to that of Tripoli.

But where is Wangara, the country of pure gold, the foundation of such an immense trade, and the brightest jewel in the crown of Ghana? This country is mentioned by Hornemann and Bowdich, under the titles of Ungura and Oongoros. Mr Clapperton in fact met at Bershee with the governor of Qongoro returning to his province; but never having heard, we suppose, either of Oongoro or Wangara, he made no use of this valuable opportunity of gaining information respecting this

remarkable country. This, however, was precisely the route to Edrisi's Wangara; and some rumours scattered through the volume point out the region to the south of Houssa as traversed by a great river, containing extensive lakes, and producing much gold. Though, therefore, we have as yet no details of Wangara, it appears still to exist, under the same name, and the same features ascribed to it by Edrisi,

In the eastern part of Central Africa, Edrisi's two leading positions are Kuku and Cauga. D'Anville has thrust Kuku up into the heart of the desert, and made it almost to border on the Nile. Mr Murray (Discoveries in Africa, B. III. ch. 1.) has shown, that this position is wholly inconsistent with the data of Edrisi, and that Kuku could not be any other than the kingdom of Bornou. It is found accordingly to be the capital of that country, or at least the residence of its ruling sovereign, Probably it may have passed through periods of neglect and decay, as it no longer presents that great magnitude, which, according to Edrisi, made it conspicuous among the Negro countries. Cauga, we apprehend, must be Loggun, though the name has certainly undergone rather a formidable transmutation; but the distance of twenty days south from Kuku, the equal distance with that city from Ghana, the industrious and prosperous character of its inhabitants, the skill of the females in magic, which probably coincides with that superior intelligence ascribed to them by Major Denham-these features, notwithstanding some minor difficulties, appear to make it impossi ble to fix it anywhere else.

To the west of Tocrur, Edrisi has only one position, Sala, two days' journey distant; but as Mr C. affords no details in that direction, it cannot be identified. Here terminate all these early settlements of the Arabians, and all precise knowledge on the part of their geographers. They now describe the Nile of the Negroes flowing westward, till, after sixteen days' journey, not a third of the real distance, it falls into the Atlantic; while at its mouth is the island of Ulil, whence salt is supplied to all the negro territories. We have here a vague combination of various features-the ocean known or presumed to exist, upon other grounds-the lake Dibbie, probably in some degree confounded with it-the great salt mines in the western part of the desert-and Walet, or Oualet, the principal market for salt.

As we have thus proved the accuracy of the Arab writers, in regard to a large extent of interior Africa, including most of that visited by the present mission, we may safely compare their description of its state in the twelfth century with what it

« PreviousContinue »