Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Mannahatta Project

The Mannahatta Project: "The aim of the Mannahatta Project is to reconstruct the ecology of Manhattan when Henry Hudson first sailed by in 1609 and compare it to what we know of the island today. The Mannahatta Project will help us to understand, down to the level of one city block, where in Manhattan streams once flowed or where American Chestnuts may have grown, where black bears once marked territories, and where the Lenape fished and hunted." See a slideshow of their preliminary results over at the New Yorker website. The slideshow is an internet sidebar to an article about the project that was published in the October 1 2007 issue of the magazine and an abstract may be found here.

Historic landscapes reconstructions rely on history (old maps, land deeds, travelers' accounts) and science (soil and vegetation analysis, climatology) and anthropology (how humans used and altered the land). The latter is especially significant as we discard the concept of "wilderness" and come to understand the extent to which the American landscape was man made, even before Columbus landed. (see Charles Mann's article "1491" for an overview of the research).

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