Bartolomeu Dias was a Portuguese mariner and explorer. He was the first European navigator to round the southern tip of Africa in 1488 and demonstrate that the most effective southward course lay in the open ocean well to west of the African coast. His discoveries effectively established the sea route between Europe and Asia.
Bartolomeu Dias was born in Portugal around 1450. His family had a maritime background and one of his ancestors, Dinis Dias e Fernandes, explored the African coast in the 1440s and discovered the Cape Verde islands in 1444.
Little is known of his early life and his biography is complicated by the existence of several contemporary Portuguese seafarers with the same name.
He was clearly a seaman of considerable experience and may have been trading for ivory along the Guinea coast as early as 1478. In 1481 Dias accompanied an expedition led by Diogo de Azambuja to construct a fortress and trading post called São Jorge da Mina in the Gulf of Guinea.
Indirect evidence also points to his possible participation in Diogo Cão's first expedition (1482-1484) down the African coast to the Congo River.
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