Posted in communication and networking, design and architecture, education, electronic imaging and displays

Ancient Manhatten Tour

As featured on GeekDad, a virtual tour of what Manhatten Island looked like at the turn of the 17th century:

Mannahatta by Eric W. Sanderson, illustrated by Markley Boyer
Mannahatta by Eric W. Sanderson, illustrated by Markley Boyer

The tour shows Manhattan and the surrounding land in its original shape and topography. They’re all there: the salt marshes, ponds, rivers and native  settlements, all available at the click of a mouse.

The virtual tour is part of the Mannahatta Project, a decade-long project of the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo. It includes not only the website but a beautifully illustrated hardcover book, and an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York that closes on October 12.

I found the book when I was researching for a fiction story I’m writing  set in ancient Manhattan.  I quickly discovered that information on this period is scarce. When I found this book, I thought “hey! someone wrote a research book just for me!”

It’s more than a dry list of maps, it’s a  fascinating comparison of now and then and a detective story that relied on modern technology for the solution.

The project started with the discovery of a detailed map created by the British military in 1782. This inspired the Wildlife Conservation Society to re-create the island all the way back to 1609 when Henry Hudson sailed in New York Bay. The re-creation relied on old maps, soil cores, and other information which was fed into a geographic information system (GIS) database developed for the project.  The result is a virtual map that can be laid over present-day  Manhattan with an error of less than 40 meters, or half a block.

Check it out and leave your review in the comments.



Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.