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Mirela Slukan Altić:

Mirko Seljan (1871–1913): Croatian explorer and cartographer of Southern Ethiopia

Cartographica Helvetica 31 (2005) 31–38


The two brothers Mirko and Stjepan Seljan are among the most famous Croatian explorers who took part in numerous expeditions in Africa and South America. In 1899 they went to Africa, where they explored southern Ethiopia (called Abyssinia at that time) in the service of Emperor Menilek II. Mirko Seljan was appointed governor of the southern Ethiopian provinces, and Stjepan was named as his deputy.

During 1900 and 1901, the Seljan brothers carried out a lot of geographic and ethnographic research in Ethiopia which was unexplored and poorly known at the time. Based on their research, Mirko Seljan created a detailed geographic map of southern Ethiopia. The map represents the province Gamo-Gofa and parts of the provinces Sidamo and Kaffa. Altogether about 50,000 km² were explored and surveyed by the Seljan brothers.

Taking into account the detailed scale of 1:400,000 and the geographical content, Seljan's map can be regarded as the first topographic map of southern Ethiopia. Mirko Seljan's map of southern Ethiopia significantly improved cartographic knowledge of East Africa, and numerous mistakes recorded on older maps were thus corrected. The map is kept in the Ethnographic Museum in Zagreb, where the majority of the Seljan brothers' legacy can also be found.

Bibliographic note

  • Edited version of: Mirko Seljan (1871–1913). Croatian explorer and cartographer of Africa. In: Proceedings of the symposium 'The history of cartography of Africa'. Cape Town, 2003. pp. 19–28.

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