By Nina Heyn – Your Culture Scout
For 15th-century Europeans, sub-Saharan Africa was to a great extent terra incognita until Portuguese explorers started venturing further and further south along the continent’s western coast. These expeditions culminated in 1497 with Vasco da Gama’s voyage all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope and on to the Indian Ocean. Portuguese explorations of the African coast and Spain’s funding of Columbus’s voyage across the Atlantic both were prompted by the diminishing access to trade with India and the Middle East after the fall of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire in 1453. Suddenly, centuries-old trading routes to Asia were blocked, with Islamic rulers taking over lands all the way toward Venice.