You probably remember this image from 2009 but we thought we’d bring back the TED Talk that explains how landscape ecologist Eric Sanderson and illustrator Markley Boyer recreated what Manhattan looked like when English explorer Henry Hudson arrived in 1609. They used a British military map from 1776 to visualize the what existed on the island the Lenape called called Mannahatta. In order to deduce which ecosystems existed on the island pre-1609, Sanderson isolated the geographical elements from the 1776 map, studied the types of soil, rock, and climate of the different regions, and from there, the species of animal, fish, and plant life that corresponded to each habitat.
What he discovered was extraordinary. Mannahatta was home to 55 distinct ecosystem types. Before 1609, the region boasted more ecological diversity than Yellowstone National Park. Boyer used the data to create beautiful 3D images of Mannahatta. Below are some specific screen shots of recognizable Manhattan locations, as they might have appeared.
In 2009 Sanderson and Boyer published their book, Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City, which contains more images of Mannahatta. Here’s the full TED talk on the Mannahatta Project’s process: