Cognitive Map-Making of Long-Distance Transhumance: The Royal Drove Road of Cuenca, Spain

Reference work entry


This chapter focuses on current herding languages of long-distance transhumance (the seasonal movement of a cowherd) between cattle farms in Teruel and Jaén (Spain). In this case study, a small transhumance community journeys up to a month, twice a year, cultivating relationships with each other, the herd animals, and the drove roads’ environments. To approach the herding practices, case study fieldwork is performed: both ethnography, as well as a more recent exercise of cognitive map-making, and discussing those with the herding couple that forms the core of this herding community. Parting from non-representational theory, maps are understood here as the end result of map-making, a performance that is possible thanks to the practice of so many transhumant herding voyages. As a whole, the map-making exercise was successful in that the route was reimagined from memory in significant detail. An explanation for that is that rather than improvising like nomads, this particular transhumance community travels over an established route: the 400-km-long, 75-m-wide Royal Drove Road of Cuenca that has been legally protected for many centuries already and the herding community have performed their journeys in this drove road for decades, bodily and mindfully incorporating the transhumant environment. The participatory maps show a practical use of language. Discussing the maps provided more linguistic detail than the maps themselves. The participants chose to draw significant sections, departure, and arrival, the presence of drinking water and fresh pastures (often in resting places), and elements that seriously endanger the well-being of the herd. However, many notable features and events remained largely absent in this exercise of cognitive mapping. Depending on the aim of the research, it is recommended to use cognitive map-making as a part of a mixed-method research strategy including more language-based methods.


Transhumance Topology Language Herding Cognitive map-making 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.KrakowPoland

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