from the world's big
Why do so many people encounter beings after smoking large doses of DMT?
- DMT is arguably the most powerful psychedelic drug on the planet, capable of producing intense hallucinations.
- Researchers recently surveyed more than 2,000 DMT users about their encounters with 'entities' while tripping, finding that respondents often considered these strange encounters to be positive and meaningful.
- The majority of respondents believed the beings they encountered were not hallucinations.
What are DMT beings?<p>Do DMT entities actually exist in some other dimension, or are they hallucinations that the brain generates when its visual processing system is overwhelmed by a powerful tryptamine?<br></p><p>The late American ethnobotanist Terence McKenna believed that DMT beings — which he called "machine elves" — were real. Here's how he once <a href="https://www.ranker.com/list/dmt-machine-elves-facts/inigo-gonzalez" target="_blank">described</a> one of his DMT experiences:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I sank to the floor. I [experienced] this hallucination of tumbling forward into these fractal geometric spaces made of light and then I found myself in the equivalent of the Pope's private chapel and there were insect elf machines proffering strange little tablets with strange writing on them, and I was aghast, completely appalled, because [in] a matter of seconds... my entire expectation of the nature of the world was just being shredded in front of me. I've never actually gotten over it.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">These self-transforming machine elf creatures were speaking in a colored language which condensed into rotating machines that were like Fabergé eggs but crafted out of luminescent superconducting ceramics and liquid crystal gels. All this stuff was just so weird and so alien and so un-English-able that it was a complete shock — I mean, the literal turning inside out of [my] intellectual universe!"</p><p>McKenna believed machine elves exist in alternate realities, which form a "<a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/old-favourites-the-archaic-revival-1991-by-terence-mckenna-1.3924887" target="_blank">raging universe of active intelligence that is transhuman, hyperdimensional, and extremely alien.</a>" But he was far from the first to believe that DMT is a doorway to other realms.</p><p>Indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin have used ayahuasca in religious ceremonies for centuries, though no one is quite sure when they first started experimenting with the psychedelic brew. The Jibaro people of the Ecuadorian rainforest believed ayahuasca allowed regular people, not just shamans, to <a href="https://atrium.lib.uoguelph.ca/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10214/17902/RichardsonG_202004_HonThesis.pdf?sequence=3" target="_blank">speak directly to the gods</a>. The 19th-century Ecuadorian geographer Villavicencio wrote of other Amazonian shamans who used ahaysuca (known as the "vine of the dead") to contact spirits and foresee enemy battle plans.</p><p>In the West, research on DMT experiences has been sparse yet interesting. The psychiatrist Rick Strassman conducted some of the first human DMT trials at the University of New Mexico in the early 1990s. He found that <a href="https://www.erowid.org/chemicals/dmt/dmt_article3.shtml" target="_blank">"at least half"</a> of his research subjects had encountered some form of entity after taking DMT.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I was neither intellectually nor emotionally prepared for the frequency with which contact with beings occurred in our studies, nor the often utterly bizarre nature of these experiences," Strassman wrote in his book "DMT The Spirit Molecule".</p>
Manuel Medir / Getty<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Whenever I tried to pull any information out of the entities regarding themselves, the data that was given up was always relevant only to me. The elves could not give me any piece of data I did not already know, nor could their existence be sustained under any kind of prolonged scrutiny."</p><p>It's also worth noting that not all people who smoke DMT see beings, and that some see beings that look <a href="https://www.erowid.org/chemicals/dmt/dmt_article3.shtml" target="_blank">nothing like elves or aliens</a>. The diversity of these reports seems to count against the argument that DMT beings exist in some objective alternate reality.</p><p>In other words, if DMT beings exist in some other dimension, shouldn't they appear the same to anyone who visits that dimension? Or do the beings assume a different appearance based on who's looking? Or are there many types of beings in the DMT universe, but most look like elves? </p><p>You might start seeing elves just trying to sort this stuff out.</p><p>Ultimately, nobody knows exactly why DMT beings take the forms they do, or whether they're just figments of overstimulated imaginations. And the answers might be beside the point. </p><p>In the recent survey, 60 percent of participants said their encounter with DMT beings "produced a desirable alteration in their conception of reality whereas only 1% indicated an undesirable alteration in their conception of reality."</p><p>DMT beings may be nothing more than projections of the subconscious mind. But these bizarre encounters do help some people find real meaning, whether it's through personal revelation or the raw power of ontological shock.</p>
A review of Latin America's growing crisis.
- Millions of Venezuelan refugees are taxing their destination countries' infrastructures.
- About 4 million Venezuelans have already fled from their home country.
- Countries such as Peru and Ecuador are trying to stem the flow, while Colombia welcomes more in.
Venezuela’s refugee crisis<p>No country has been left unaffected by the impact of Venezuela's downfall. Colombia, which shares the longest border with Venezuela, at the moment hosts 1.3 million refugees. This is followed by roughly another 800,000 in Peru, 300,000 in Chile, and 260,000 in Ecuador. A number of Caribbean states have a high number of refugees relative to their total population, as well. </p><p>Colombia expects to take in up to 3 million refugees by 2021. Ambassador Francisco Santos recently told reporters, "To be very sincere, if it goes to 3 million, we don't have the money."</p><p>Only a fraction of international assistance has been devoted to the Venezuelan refugee crisis. Indeed, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) need an additional $738 million to assist migrant-receptive countries in both Latin America and the Caribbean region.</p><p>The joint UNHCR-IOM special representative for Venezuelan migrants, Eduardo Stein, <a href="https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/press/2019/6/5cfa2a4a4/refugees-migrants-venezuela-top-4-million-unhcr-iom.html" target="_blank">recently stated</a>, "We are looking at a complex set of needs for the next two years, even if there is a political solution today." </p><p>The UN has repeatedly put out calls <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-brazil-refugees/u-n-pleads-for-more-help-to-relieve-venezuelan-refugee-crisis-idUSKCN1V80M8" target="_blank">for more funding</a>: "Latin American and Caribbean countries are doing their part to respond to this unprecedented crisis, but they cannot be expected to continue doing it without international help," Stein declared.</p>
Displacement of Venezuelans in Colombia<p>Millions are roving and crossing borders as the days go by. Some estimate that the exodus could, in all, exceed 8 million people. A number of bordering countries have already begun to tighten their entry requirements and put up further barriers. Ecuador, for instance, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ecuador-venezuela/ecuador-to-tighten-controls-on-venezuelan-immigrants-after-murder-idUSKCN1PE0X8" target="_blank">upped its requirements</a> — Venezuelans now need to present a passport and a clear criminal record in order to get into the country. So far, both Brazil and Colombia have kept their open border policy.</p><p>A majority of the migrants have stayed in the region. Yet, as the crisis continues, these once open destination countries are becoming less welcoming. Dealing with their own problems of slow economic growth, scare jobs, and overtaxed health and education infrastructures, many of these countries can't support the influx of migrant entrants.</p><p>Recent waves of refugees are poorer than those that had come before. Lack of jobs and unstable environments, historically, lead to exploitation and the rise of crime. Colombia with its 1,400-mile border with Venezuela, is now dealing with disorder on one end of their country and a build up of refugees on its southern border, as Peru and Ecuador increasingly turn more Venezuelans away. </p><p>Brazil has been systematically relocating migrants to the border state of Roraima, where Venezuelans sometimes have been able to work informal jobs and ease labor shortages. The region's capital city, Boa Vista, with a population of 400,000, now has more than 50,000 displaced Venezuelans.</p>
Venezuelan migrants gather at the Colombian Border
Photo credit: Juan David Moreno Gallego / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images<p>As a result of the roiling in the region, there has been a surge of homelessness in many of the towns on the border. "We lost control of the city," says Teresa Surita, the mayor of Boa Vista.</p><p>Colombia's government officials estimate that 0.5 percent of their GDP goes to providing health care, schooling, and other infrastructural services to Venezuelans. Ecuadoran leaders, who <a href="https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2019/03/11/ecuador-pr1972-imf-executive-board-approves-eff-for-ecuador" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently went to the IMF</a> for increased financial assistance, estimate that their nation spends about $170 million a year — or .16 percent of its GDP — on health and education for Venezuelan migrants with an exceptional humanitarian visa. </p><p>There has also been an increase of negative public sentiment regarding the refugees. Amparo Goyes, a resident of Quito, Ecuador's capital <a href="https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2019/09/12/millions-of-refugees-from-venezuela-are-straining-neighbours-hospitality" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">states</a>, "People used to feel sorry for [Venezuelans], but now there's fear of crime."</p><p>Politicians and citizens are calling for tighter controls on migrants and restrictions on immigration.</p><p>Even so, amidst the changing attitudes and growing crisis, Colombia has been issuing permits that'll allow 700,000 Venezuelans the right to work and receive public services for a minimum of two years. Politicians in Colombia have even signed a pact that they won't stir anti-Venezuelan campaigns in the coming elections.</p><p>The crisis is Latin America seems to have only begun. Those most touched by the events occurring are urging the global community to assist them in coping with this crisis.</p>
"Brasilia, the biggest paper town ever."
- Why does Brasilia, built in the 1950s, pop up on a 1920s map of South America?
- We put the question out there, and the answers — some more credible than others — came flooding back.
- Thank you, internet hive mind: you've solved a cartographic mystery!
Cartographic mystery<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTEyMDkxNS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxODY1NDY2Nn0.9vzclh1WKNs0CSoV_-eqsf0Gii1MEwuUlz6wvv796YE/img.png?width=980" id="e5291" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b698859ecdf6c1e2ad1a5c60569ca3b3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="1920s map of South America, showing Brasilia, which was built only in the 1950s." />
1920s map of South America, showing Brasilia, which was built only in the 1950s.
Image source: Rob Cornelissen<p>Last week, we <a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/brasilia-mystery-map" target="_blank">reported</a> on a cartographic mystery that had us baffled: a map of South America, dateable to the 1920s, showing Brasilia — even though work on Brazil's planned capital only started in 1956. Short of plausible answers, we asked you. And fortunately, you're cleverer than us. </p>The answers fall into two categories:<ul><li>The map dates from the 1950s (or thereafter), which explains why Brasilia is on the map. But there are good reasons why the map <em>appears</em> much older.</li><li>The map <em>does</em> date from the 1920s (or thereabouts), but there are good reasons for Brasilia to already be on the map. </li></ul>
Outdated borders<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTEyMDkxOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTM0MTM2Mn0.C_NWMurVvZ-qSmh8JeZqzjyh806ELHhdR3UWidy-jfE/img.jpg?width=980" id="beb11" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7d609238fa4ef8303dfd86d5642bad57" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Neuer Sammel-Atlas, published by the Berliner Morgenpost in 1957, showing Germany's pre-1938 borders." />
Neuer Sammel-Atlas, published by the Berliner Morgenpost in 1957, showing Germany's pre-1938 borders.
Image source: Norbert Adam<p>Let's explore option one first. For starters, the inclusion of Weimar Germany (as a size comparison) in itself is not enough to conclusively link the map to the 1920s. West Germany didn't formally accept the <a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/166-neisse-border-if-you-can-get-one" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Oder-Neisse border</a> (i.e. the eastern border of East Germany with Poland) until 1990, so many West German maps continued to show the 1919–37 border well into the 1980s.</p><p>So, if we imagine that the map is post 1956, that would explain why Brasilia is on it. But why the outdated borders throughout South America? </p><p>Theory one: the map is meant as a contemporary map, hence the inclusion of Brasilia, but it uses a much older base map, hence the older borders. Reasons? The publisher was lazy or dishonest; newer material was not available or too expensive. Here is a well-crafted story that merits inclusion in its entirety:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The map was produced after 1960, as a partial update or re-release of an atlas from the 1920s. Perhaps the 'nostalgia' of an older map was a feature, for instance for a coffee-table book. When the intern tasked with preparing the map did a quick skim for major changes or errors, they simply checked for the presence of all the capital cities. Seeing that Brazil's capital was missing, they added it to the map, and sent it off for printing."<br></p>
Suspicious curves<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTEyMDkyMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMDk0MDkwOX0.j_Vk-0BsCiGru9U3EdiMba87c0xp17MaiZIPQ3jgLq8/img.jpg?width=980" id="2e261" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9590a3b19c2f7bf847a1ef62c22328aa" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Excerpt of South America map showing Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro" />
Is there something 'off' about the curvature and typeface of 'Brasilia'?
Image source: Rob Cornelissen<p>I can smell the ink and hear the roar of the presses, can't you? Some convincing-sounding clues for this theory:</p><ul><li>Rio is written in the heavy sans-serif typeface as the other capital cities, suggesting it is indeed still the capital of Brazil.</li><li>The curvature of "Brasilia" is suspicious: it looks like it was added later.</li><li>Compared to other names on the map, the typeface of both "Brasilia" and "Bundesdistr" is a bit off. </li></ul><p>Theory two: the map was an experiment, for scholarly or artistic reasons, to recreate a map of South America as it was in the 1920s — but the mapmakers forgot to erase Brasilia. Thus unwittingly leaving a temporal anomaly on the map for us to wonder over. </p>
Beach Capital<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTEyMDkyNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNDA2Nzk4MX0.mU21ZTNlcG30pu7yQIPcVL2xyKrIm_fIE3ncL-zdKlI/img.jpg?width=980" id="69d68" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f1a1f83121e9d0d95f18630cfe848a29" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="A view of Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro in the 1940s, when Rio de Janeiro was still Brazil's capital." />
A view of Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro in the 1940s, when Rio de Janeiro was still Brazil's capital.
Image source: Werner Haberkorn / public domain<p>However, the majority of opinion — and the weight of historical evidence — points to the second option: the map does date from the 1920s, and there are good reasons for Brasilia to be where it is. Even though at that time Rio was still the nation's capital, and the area now occupied by Brasilia nothing but wilderness. </p><p>Many countries throughout history have planned and constructed new capitals for themselves — from ancient Egypt (Akhetaten, 1346 BCE) to, most recently, the Pacific island nation of Palau (Ngerulmud, 2006). Brazil might be unique in the time it took the nation to build the darn thing. More than a century elapsed between the first mention of Brasilia and its inauguration as the country's new capital. Here's a thumbnail overview:</p><ul><li>In 1763, Rio de Janeiro became the capital of Brazil, then still a Portuguese colony. But already then, tentative suggestions were made to move the capital inland, as a safeguard against seaborne invasion (the British and Dutch being the most likely candidates). </li></ul>
Bosco's vision<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTEyNDY5OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDgxNTk0Nn0.G7aQzCsx43EZuYScAu9xX6cOQeb4N-ttQq-kx-ykaU8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=103%2C118%2C37%2C110&height=700" id="11858" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="504aa75482f9f2e7c9207ead2d9ed410" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Don Bosco had a vision of a city where Brasilia is now. Here, the Don Bosco Sanctuary in Brasilia.
Image source: Claudio Ruiz; CC BY-SA 2.0<ul> <li>In 1813, Hipólito José da Costa — the '"Father of the Brazilian Press" — wrote a number of articles suggesting the capital be moved inland, "next to the river rapids that flow north, south and northeast."</li></ul><ul> <li>In the 1823, José Bonifácio, one of the "patriarchs" of Brazilian independence, first proposed "Brasilia" as the name for the planned inland city. His other suggestion was "Petropolis," after Emperor Pedro I of the newly-independent country. Bonifácio's proposal to the General Assembly came to nothing when the emperor dissolved parliament.</li></ul><ul><li>In 1883, according to legend, Don Bosco — the founder of the Salesian order and later sanctified — <a href="https://hom-ing.me/sonho-visao-de-dom-bosco/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">had a dream</a> in which he foresaw a futuristic city at a location corresponding to that of Brasilia. The legend was eagerly adopted by promotors of the inland capital project. There are references to Bosco throughout Brasilia, and a city parish bears his name. </li></ul>
Quadrilatero Cruls<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTEyMDk0MC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzEyOTU0NX0.Cj_O2ARAnjtvANlXzgZhBpO6kTmevEjJyYoqeqtoBIA/img.png?width=980" id="3e1ed" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b2b5a468c7a27f691bf2831dfdbb23d5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Carta da via\u00e7\u00e3o ferrea do Brazil em 1913" />
The Future Federal District, as shown on a 1913 railway map of Brazil.
Image source: Library of Congress<ul> <li>In 1891, Article 3 of Brazil's first republican constitution stated that "an area of 14,400 square km in the Central Plateau of the Republic is reserved for the Union, and will be demarcated at another opportunity, in order to establish a Future Federal Capital."</li></ul><ul><li>In 1892–3, an expedition led by the Belgian-born astronomer Louis Cruls demarcated an area as prescribed by the constitution, in a perfect rectangle. The "<a href="https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Figura-8-Sobreposicao-do-Retangulo-Belcher-do-Quadrilatero-Cruls-e-dos-municipios_fig4_38976961" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Quadrilátero Cruls</a>" became synonymous with the "Future Federal District" and appeared on maps under either name.</li></ul>
Foundation stone<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTEyMDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MjU4MTcyMn0.KrwOcnOvwf10_wQZQb2MltHzDhORCcSs7cqHLlhoDzg/img.jpg?width=980" id="8ad51" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="26d7c14eadc69270d65dd151f9c1bd3f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Pedra Fundamental de Bras\u00edlia, capital do Brasil, no morro do centen\u00e1rio em Planaltina - DF." />
The foundation stone for Brazil's future capital was inaugurated in 1922.
Image: Nevinho, CC BY-SA 3.0<ul> <li>On 18 January 1922, President Epitácio Pessoa of Brazil issued Decree 4494, setting aside an area in the east of the state of Goiás for the future federal capital of Brazil.</li></ul><ul> <li>At noon on 7 September 1922 — exactly 100 years after Brazil's independence — a foundation stone ("Pedra Fundamental") for the new capital was inaugurated at what is now known as Morro do Centenario, ("Centennial Hill") on the Serra da Independência, nine km from the town of <a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g3167136-Planaltina_Federal_District-Vacations.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Planaltina</a>. </li></ul><ul><li>The memorial obelisk is engraved as "the Foundation Stone of the Future Capital of the United States of Brazil," but doesn't mention any name for the city. After decades of planning, it was the first actual construction on the site. However, the project stalled for another 34 years. </li></ul>
Made in Brazil<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTEyNDc0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNjY5ODg0NH0.4TJ7dDp20KOFE1QGNaKoQ2yDRQNmHEJo2CcyxymOdj4/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C259%2C0%2C51&height=700" id="bda03" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b10b0454b04a087349771bf86736737a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Brasilia today: a metropolis of four million.
Image: Agência Brasil, CC BY-SA 3.0<ul> <li>In January 1956, straight after his election as president, Juscelino Kubitschek, started with the construction of the capital. He was not only finally fulfilling Article 3 from the 1891 constitution, but also one of his campaign promises. Brasilia would be built about 30 km from the Pedra Fundamental. The remarkable speed in which it was finished is due in no small part to all the planning that had gone before.</li></ul><ul><li>On 21 April 1960, Brasilia was officially proclaimed a city, and the nation's capital. Government officials and foreign ambassadors visiting the city created its first traffic jam. At the time of its inauguration, Brasilia had around 100,000 inhabitants. Today, the agglomeration counts over 4 million inhabitants. </li></ul>It is very likely that the map dates from 1922 or shortly thereafter, when it seemed — for a short while — that the project for Brasilia would finally be taking off. A further indication of this is that the Federal District included on the map is the perfect quadrangle measured by Cruls (and still current at the time), and not the smaller, asymmetric FD as was delineated in the 1950s. <span></span><span></span><br>Including the new capital may have been a way to "future-proof" the map — but it ultimately goes to show that mapmakers should stick to the facts on the ground. As a result of their miscalculation, Brasilia on the 1920s map turned out to be, as one reader suggested, "the biggest <a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/643-agloe-the-paper-town-stronger-than-fiction" target="_blank">paper town</a> ever."
Forensic cartography 101: Explain what Brasilia is doing on this map of 1920s South America.
- "Forensic cartography" is dating a map by the age of its borders.
- All evidence points to this undated map of South America to be from the 1920s.
- So why does it feature Brasilia, the new capital of Brazil, which was only built in the 1950s?
An un-German continent<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTEwMjUyOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTA2NjgyOH0.MXiXiDxwiiNULrQJToMgbhI8uxU3lrw0oEViawoZrQc/img.jpg?width=980" id="4930b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c1696ab58e78cf960e5b2701b1db8308" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="An undated, early 20th-century map of South America, from the German publishers F.A. Brockhaus in Leipzig" />
Old, but just how old? For map nerds, undated maps like these, with lots of obsolete borders, are where the adventure is.
Image: Rob Cornelissen<p>Like all good adventure stories, this one starts with a map. Some time ago, Rob Cornelissen blew the dust off this one in a second-hand bookstore, and something clicked. Immediately, he knew he had to take it home. Even if the adventure the map promised was of a very different kind from the ones that happen to Indiana Jones. Instead of daredevil archaeology, think armchair cartography. In other words, the map <em>is</em> the adventure. </p><p>"It was a beautiful map of South America, by the looks of it from the first half of the 20th century. The reason it caught my eye, was because it was in German. The appearance of this highly un-German continent, covered with geographic names like <em>Feuerland </em>(Tierra del Fuego), <em>Teufels-Insel</em> (Devil's Island, off French Guiana) and <em>Allerheiligen-Bai</em> (All Saints Bay in Brazil, in Portuguese: Baía de Todos os Santos), for some reason made it very appealing to me."</p><p>Certainly adding to the appeal was the undated map's potential as an adventure in itself. Depending on the broadness of the map-reader's historical knowledge and the relative obscurity of the map itself, trying to figure out the exact date of an undated map can be a source of great frustration — and many times great satisfaction.<br></p><p>In the lower right, the map's provenance is indicated as F.A. Brockhaus, Leipzig. One of Germany's most prominent publishers, the company, founded in 1805, is <a href="https://brockhaus.de/info/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">still in operation</a>. Since the map is taken from an atlas or encyclopedia rather than published on its own, it is not individually dated. The only way to figure out its year of origin is to examine the evidence on the map itself: Names of cities and countries, and the borders between them, as they have changed throughout history.</p>
How to date a map<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTEwMjUzOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTQ1Mjg0OH0.Rd-gxRbVSIBSh77-IDGgRFn5EX4Sy7TkAnJBNMSkudc/img.png?width=980" id="252e9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a42e5afdaa7bc46f9b3db124962be8fc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Flow chart for forensic cartography." />
Guide to figuring out the age of an undated world map.
Image: XKCD<p>Subjecting a map to such forensic examination may never have occurred to you, but as a pastime it's popular enough to have generated this obsessive and half whimsical flow chart to help you determine the date of a world map, but also to distinguish it from breadboxes, cats and seagulls. Some more relevant determinants:</p><ul><li>Is that big city on the Bosporus called Constantinople or Istanbul?</li><li>Are there one or two Germanys on the map? One or two Yemens? One or two Vietnams? One or two Sudans?</li><li>Is Bolivia landlocked or not? (we'll get back to that one later...)</li></ul><p>While we keep waiting for the good people over at XKCD to turn this into the top-grossing board game of the Christmas season, let's return to South America. </p><p>Make yourself a cup of tea while you find your magnifying glass and settle in for a cartographic autopsy that will produce a map mystery to baffle you. If not, maybe that's because you have the answer to the question… <br></p>
Post Versailles, pre Anschluss<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTEwMjU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMjkyODYxNH0.5M_dKmUhDF2wEy0no0WCXk8N9cDgr1YCdlOB0j2vaHE/img.png?width=980" id="328f7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="81919effd62d7597b7f8357990599258" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="A map of Germany after the Treaty of Versailles (1919), but before the Anschluss of Austria (1938)." />
The second-and-a-half Reich, between WWI and WWII.
Image: Rob Cornelissen<p>We ease into the job at hand thanks to the stamp-sized map of Germany in the top right corner. Placed there for the sake of size comparison, it also quickly and clearly puts outer age boundaries on the map. It can't be older than 1919, Mr. Cornelissen argues, because "the borders shown are clearly those determined by the Versailles Treaty of 1919." </p><p>Having lost the First World War, Germany was forced to cede territory to its neighbors. "The old possessions in Poland, France and Belgium are still shown behind a dotted line, as if it is hoped the loss of the territories might be a temporary condition."</p><p>The country's post-WWI borders would essentially stay the same until March of 1938, when Germany annexed Austria (the so-called <em>Anschluss</em>) and later that same year Sudetenland (the German-speaking border regions of Czechoslovakia). Neither of those changes is shown on the map, which with some confidence may be said to date from some time between 1919 and 1938.<br></p>
The War of Thirst<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTEwMjU5NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTE0NTIwOH0.NUfQqw3v2vYgRYDxvD6PM7wHhTn8s7GkLFFptuckwco/img.png?width=980" id="304f3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0b856348330e7079f1738ceac6462b2d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of South America showing the borders before the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay." />
Oil was one of the motives of the war between Bolivia and Paraguay over possession of the Gran Chaco.
Image source: Rob Cornelissen<p>Dating a map within two decades on just one clue is pretty good; fortunately (for us), South America's current borders are the result of "a bucketload of minor and major border conflicts and resulting border changes, well into the 20th century," says Mr. Cornelissen. </p><p>"Take Paraguay, for instance. It is a lot smaller than it is now, indicating that the useless Chaco War (1932–35) with the Bolivians had not ended yet."</p><p>Also called <em>The War of Thirst</em> ("La Guerra de la Sed") because it was fought in the semi-arid Gran Chaco region, the Chaco War was the bloodiest conflict in South America in the 20th century, killing more than 100,000. Paraguay won, and obtained most of the disputed region in the peace settlement. The Chaco's presumed oil riches were one of the main drivers for the war. However, the first commercially viable reserves of oil in the region were discovered only in 2012. <br></p>
The Leticia Incident<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTEwNjc4NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNDY0MDA1MX0.EssOWvQ2t0pvudITWgtmPatxobpzd7_REloahLnmhVw/img.png?width=1245&coordinates=32%2C61%2C64%2C428&height=700" id="a06a3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fff83bdb190722691c8ffa441b20834c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Map of border area between Peru, Brazil and Colombia before the Leticia Incident.
Image: Rob Cornelissen<p>"Even better, the border between Colombia and Peru is from before the conclusion of the Leticia Incident of 1932–1933."</p><p>Also called the Leticia War or the Colombia-Peru War, this nine-month, low-intensity territorial conflict claimed about 200 lives on either side, mostly from jungle diseases. Colombia sailed its navy up the Amazon to repel a Peruvian occupation of what it considered its territory. The Peruvians eventually withdrew undefeated. </p><p>Both countries reaffirmed an older treaty, which established Leticia as Colombia's southernmost city. It's not on this map, but it's right next to the Brazilian city of Tabatinga, still shown bordering only Peruvian territory on this map. <br></p>
The Saltpeter War<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTEwMjYxNC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTIxNDExM30.qH0YxkPtt1oVgAUPd-0ZQ1-nuyYyHmijbRM7PhumUDM/img.png?width=980" id="4a529" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3ce143663ce1da1f4200f44de6cb6408" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of South America showing the border area beteween Peru, Bolivia and Chile." />
Image source: Rob Cornelissen<p>"And even better still is the fact that on this map, the city of Tacna still belongs to Chile," Mr. Cornelissen enthuses. "The Chileans gained it from Peru in 1883 following the War of the Pacific but returned it to Peru with the Treaty of Lima in 1929 — making their country slightly less elongated."</p><p>Also known as the Saltpeter War, the War of the Pacific (1879–84) saw Chile defeat a Bolivian-Peruvian alliance and annex mineral-rich coastal territories from both countries, in the process land-locking Bolivia. The 1929 treaty gave Tacna back to Peru, while Chile got to keep Arica.</p><p>Despite concessions granting Bolivia access to the coast via Chile, the loss of sovereignty over its coastal area has left a deep and lasting scar on the Bolivian psyche.<br></p>
Time-travel paradox<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTEwMjYxNy9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5NjUyMzA4OX0.D2PMmZAVQzSU7ckbUsdDQeIWi9ap12Dsui5UYIeW0zk/img.png?width=980" id="759c3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="229fe59f64e8b72f8605398c384e0032" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of South America showing part of Brazil, its Federal District and the capital, Brazil." />
City out of time? A map of 1920s South America, showing Brazil's new capital Brasilia, which was built only from 1956.
Image source: Rob Cornelissen<p>So, the return of Tacna narrows down the time frame for this map to the decade from 1919 to 1929. A nice piece of map sleuthing so far, but nothing out of the ordinary. Until you focus on the Brazilian state of "Goyaz" (an older spelling; current name is "Goias"). It is perforated by a rectangular zone, labelled <em>Bundesdistrikt</em> ('Federal District'). Contained within it is a fairly large city, called Brasilia. </p><p>Yes of course, you might think: that's the correct location and name of the capital of Brazil. But, as Mr. Cornelissen accurately points out: "That city was only founded in… 1956!"</p><p>From 1763 until 1960, Brazil's capital was Rio de Janeiro, a coastal metropolis. Being a port city was beneficial for trade, but it also meant that Rio was far away from the country's huge interior. From as early as the mid-19th century, the idea arose to build a new capital, at a more central location inland. But those plans only came to fruition in the mid-20th century. </p><p>Fulfilling a campaign promise, president Juscelino Kubitschek – known colloquially as 'JK' – ordered a contest for the design of Brasilia in 1956. Construction started the same year and was completed in a mere 41 months. Brasilia was declared the nation's new capital in 1960. </p><p>"In the 1920s, Brasilia certainly wasn't "under construction" for Brockhaus to already put it on their maps — and certainly not as a major city, marked with a dot as big as Rio, Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires!" At that time, JK's push to finally find the exact spot and the right design for Brasilia was still decades in the future. </p><p>"So… What is going on with this map? What am I missing? Either the location and name of Brasilia was known a lot earlier than is common knowledge these days, or" — Mr. Cornelissen suggests, "there is some weirder cause."</p><p>Although the idea of a planned capital is much older than Brasilia, this map suggests that its exact location — and that of its Federal District — were already established decades ahead of its actual construction. In which case the dot on this map would have marked not a city, but forests or fields. </p><p>Alternatively, Brasilia is a city with magical qualities, and it can travel through time. Or is there another explanation? To quote Arthur Conan Doyle, by way of Sherlock Holmes: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."<br></p><p>If you can solve the mystery, let me know at <a href="mailto:email@example.com" rel="noopener noreferrer">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>. Plausible and/or interesting theories will be published below!</p>
Contrary to popular belief, the Amazon rainforest does not produce 20% of our planet's oxygen.
Fires in the Amazon rainforest have captured attention worldwide in recent days. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in 2019, pledged in his campaign to reduce environmental protection and increase agricultural development in the Amazon, and he appears to have followed through on that promise.