New Granada

Working on a paper related to Colombian Drymaeus reveals some well-known puzzles about old localities who have not been traced again. In fact, the denomination of the area as “New Grenada” is somewhat of a puzzle, as the meaning of that terminology has shifted over time.
Just out of curiosity, I searched for pictures on “New Grenada” in Google. I found a few, and the shift in what has to be called “New Grenada” is clearly illustrated in the following time-series.

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Map of New Grenada
Author: John Pilkerton, 1811. Scale 1:3,400,000. Publshers: Cadell & Davies; Longman, Hurst, Rees, Ome & Brown, London

 

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Map of the Kingdom of New Grenada
Author: Hall Sidney, 1827. Scale 1:5,700,000. Publisher: Caddell, London.

 

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Map of Venezuela, New Grenada & Equador
Author: Henny Tanner, 1836. Scale 1:6,969,600. Publisher: H.S. Tanner, Philadelphia

The first map shows that New Grenada at one time reached the borders of the Río Marañon, now in the territory of Perú. The last map is especially interesting, since it depicts the situation at the time from which many type material originate, that can still be found in museum collections. What struck me is the very different limitation of the ‘Provinces” or “Departments”. Colombia consisted in the mid-19th century of four parts: Cauca, Cundinamarca, Magdalena and Boyacá. Their geographical limits are, however, rather different from their current, being far more extensive. When interpreting old locality labels this knowledge can be very helpful to pinpoint certain places, which might not be located where one would expect them with today’s map in front.

Just an example of some puzzles that I consider solved, where some geographical knowledge and modern facilities go hand in hand. One of the collectors who travelled extensively through Colombia at that time was Thomas Bland (1809-1885). Many of his collected material was studied by Pilsbry during his work for the Manual of Conchology. But quite often modern authors may be puzzled about some of the places that were visited by Bland.
There were three Drymaeus species with localities originating from Bland that, at first, I was unable to locate. “Between Salamina and Cabuyal, west of Ervé” was one of them, a locality reported for D. bogotensis (Pfeiffer). I looked up Ervé in the GNS gazetteer but nothing turned up. On the other hand, Salamina and Cabuyal – though not sounding like common names – turned up many times from different parts of Colombia. I decided to leave it and went on with my revision.
Another puzzling locality was “near Santa Ana”, type locality of D. decoratus goniobasis Pilsbry, based on material collected by Bland. When I looked up “Santa Ana” in the gazetteer, many places of that name turned up from all over the country.
Finally, I came to D. geometricus (Pfeiffer), for which Pilsbry had another locality from Bland: “Forests in the mountains below Ervé, on the road to Santa Ana”. I’m unaware if there has anything been published about the journeys of Bland in Colombia, but now I had three parts of a puzzle and I decided to find some solution. First the place “Ervé”. This is a highly unusual spelling in Spanish, so it could be phonetical. I decided to look for “erve” in the GNS database, but not with “starts with” option enabled, but with the “contains” option instead. It turned up 6 names, of which 3 could be skipped right away. I ended up with “Páramo de Herveo” and two variants of the populated place “Herveo”, all at or very close to 05° 05′ 00″ N 075° 10′ 00″ W, which is in Dept. Tolima. The first puzzle bit was in place.
The next step was to find Santa Ana, which could not be far away. When I scrutinized the list of names I did not find a place with a modern name that seemed logical to me. Then I was struck by the name Falán in the list, with a variant name Santa Ana, and located 25 km ENE of Herveo. That seemed logical to me, both places are in the region of Fresno in the upper Magdalena valley, from which the species have been reported.
Then finally Salamina and Cabuyal. With the location of Herveo in mind I looked through all the records for these names in the GNS gazetteer. Salamina is in Dept. Caldas, nearly 50 km NW of Herveo. And there is a “Quebrada Cabuyal” in Tolima, 60 km SE of Herveo. Both places are marked with red in the map below, while the three localties of the Drymaeus species mentioned are marked with yellow. Three species finally found their home.

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This post was originally published in my previous blog in November 2007; thanks to the WaybackMachine I’m able to re-publish it here.

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