Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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BLANK SPACE: MAPPING THE UNKNOWN

Introduction:

How did early maps show the mapmakers' perception of the known world?

Lesson Images

Novae Insvlae

Munster, Sebastian, (1489–1552). Novae Insvlae XXVI Nova Tabvla. Basilae: Per Henrichum Petrum, 1545. G3290 1545 .M8 Voorhees Collection. Library of Virginia. (High Res)

General map

Mayo, William (ca. 1684–1744). A General Map of the Known and Inhabited Parts of Virginia. Created in 1860, copied in 1860. G3881.F1 1731 .M3 1860. Library of Virginia. (High Res)

Nova Anglia Map

Jansson, Jan, (1588–1664). Nova Anglia, Novum Belgium, et Virginia. Amsterdam, 1636. G3709.3 1636 .J3 Voorhees Collection. Library of Virginia. (High Res)

Mercator map

Mercator, Gerhard, (1512–1594). Typus Orbis Terrarum: Domini est Terra & Plenitudo Ejus, Orbis Uerrarum, & Universi Qui Habitant in Eo. Psalmo 24. Amsterdam, 1607. G3200 1607 .M4 Voorhees Collection. Library of Virginia. (High Res)

Standards Of Learning

1.4, 1.5, 2.5, 2.6, 3.2, 3.5, 3.6, K.4, K.5, USI.1, USI.2, USII.1, VS.1, VS.2, VUS.1, VUS.2, WG.1, WHI.1, WHII.1, WHII.4

Historical Information:

This Lesson Plan was created by Penny Anderson, a teacher at Riverbend High School in Fredericksburg and one of the Library of Virginia's 2010 Brown Research Teacher Fellows.

Maps are graphic representations of the earth and show the locations of land features and bodies of water, as well as other information mapmakers choose to depict. Mapmakers (cartographers) use symbols, pictures, and other illustrations to represent various geographic features, topics, and themes. Early mapmakers used maps drawn from coastal explorations, land travels, and even information heard word of mouth from American Indians or from colonists or traders. These mapmakers did not have the electronic technology of satellite imagery or global positioning devices we readily use today. What happened when a mapmaker was not sure what else was “out there”? Did he just leave a blank space on his map? Did he fill it in with imaginary features and mythological creatures? What symbols became common as mapmakers learned the features of the land? This lesson will help students understand how maps were created to show land and water features as men explored the vast lands of the New World.

Mapmakers created a wide array of map tools to help the reader examine information represented on maps. Directions, measurement scales, and symbols representing objects and places were shown in a map's key or legend. Elaborate compass roses were drawn to represent the four cardinal directions of north, east, south, and west. Many times, the compass rose would also show the intermediate directions at the midpoints between the angles of the cardinal directions. Due north was embellished on the compass rose, sometimes to the right, making familiar landforms appear to the modern map reader as being sideways. The orientation of the compass rose shows the direction in accordance to points on a compass.

Many early mapmakers only drew in pictures of known land forms, vegetation, water features, human settlement, or transportation routes. Unexplored areas were left as empty or “blank” land. Sometimes mapmakers drew in known but unseen mountains or inland seas, or they simply embellished the map with mythical creatures like mermaids and centaurs. Over time, and for efficiency, standardized symbols commonly appeared in map legends to avoid confusion about what was represented on the maps. Symbols for raised landforms had a triangular shape and water features often were shown as wave marks to represent water's movement. Colors also became regularized, showing low elevation in green, higher elevations in browns, and water in blue. The creation of efficient maps eased in a new era of exploration and fueled explorers' desire to survey the territories of empires. Explorers rapidly researched and surveyed the vast New World with these early standard maps. Knowing the locations of major topographic features also set the stage for future events in exploration and human settlement.

Lesson Activities

ELEMENTARY LESSON ACTIVITIES:

Vocabulary Words:

• cardinal directions—the directions of north, east, south, and west

• compass rose—a symbol that shows direction (north, east, south, and west) on a map

• equator—an imaginary line around the middle of the earth that divides it into the Northern and Southern hemispheres

• globe—a round (sphere) model of the Earth

• hemisphere—half of a sphere (globe); created by the equator or the prime meridian

• map—a drawing that shows what places look like from above and where they are located

• map legend—a list of shapes and symbols used on a map and an explanation of what each one represents

• peninsula—a piece of land bordered by water on three sides

• piedmon—the transition region between lowlands and uplands; the rolling foothills as elevation rises to the base of a mountain range

• plain—any large, flat expanse of land

• prime meridian—an imaginary line around the middle of the earth that divides it into the Eastern and Western hemispheres

• region—a place that has common characteristics that are different from the characteristics of the surrounding areas

• relative location—concept described by using terms that show connections between two places, such as next to, near, and bordering

• symbol—a picture or thing that represents something else

• title—the name of or kind of map

Lesson Ideas:

MAP ANALYSIS

• Using one large projection (slide show image, poster, transparency image, etc.), as a class have students examine the four maps and answer these basic observation questions:

♦ How did the mapmakers differentiate land and water?

♦ Do the maps look the same as a present-day map? Why or why not?

♦ Can you tell the four cardinal directions on each map? Why or Why not?

♦ What are some of the place names? (Are they in English?)

♦ Do any of the maps show the earth in hemispheres? Do any show a single land region?

♦ Can you pick out the area around Virginia?

♦ What other observations can you make?

• Using a wall map of modern Virginia, compare it with the Mayo map. Have the students identify the map titles, any geographic features or symbols, and place names.

♦ Have students locate the following places on the two maps: Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay, James River, Jamestown, Richmond, York River, Yorktown, Werowocomoco (site), Cactus Hill (site), Blue Ridge Mountains, Potomac River, and Washington, D.C.

♦ Are any locations listed on both maps? Why or why not? Examine the relative location of the listed places. Are they near or far from one another? In what direction are they from one another? Do any border each other? What are the relative locations of other place names (i.e. Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Williamsburg) compared to Richmond?

♦ Do you see any pattern of exploration? (i.e. settlements along rivers, coastlines, or other physical features?)

• Using groups or centers, have copies of the images available for hands-on use. Have the students answer the following questions individually or in small teams.

♦ What does each mapmaker do to “fill in” any unexplored area?

♦ Which map has a well-defined coast but a blank inland region?

♦ Which map calls the southern lands “incognita” (“unknown”)?

♦ Which map “stops” at a chain of mountains?

♦ Which maps show a much distorted North and South America?

♦ Which map shows the most land mass; which one shows the least land mass?

♦ What else might a mapmaker do to “fill in” the blank spaces of unexplored lands?

MAP CONSTRUCTION

• Draw a map of the world from memory showing as many major land and water features as you can remember. Add a title, a compass rose, and a key for any symbols you use to represent information.

• Draw a map of a familiar area (your school, neighborhood, or town). Add a map title, compass rose, and three symbols representing three features on your map. You must make a key to explain your symbols.

• Use the blank map handout to create an exploration map of the shown area. (The map is of an imagined area; students can be creative.)

CREATIVE WRITING

• You are an early English explorer. You just arrived at Jamestown and know of an expedition leaving to search the “unknown lands of the colony.” Write a diary account of your discovery of a physical land feature unknown to Europeans. Describe what happened that day, what the feature looks like, name it, and explain why it was named. Extension: add a map of your newly explored land.

SECONDARY LESSON ACTIVITIES:

Vocabulary Words:

• absolute location—concept of position described by using exact location of coordinates or address

• cardinal directions—the directions of north, east, south, and west

• cartographer—a mapmaker

• cognitive map—a person's mental map

• compass rose—a symbol that shows direction on a map

• derivative—something that is copied from an earlier source

• distortion—misrepresentation or misshapen features on a map

• fall line—the imaginary line that marks the edge of transition in elevation; the eastern boundary of the Piedmont in the Mid-Atlantic states

• hemisphere—half of a sphere (globe); created by the equator or the prime meridian

• intermediate directions—the directions of northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest

• map legend—A list of shapes and symbols used on a map and an explanation of what each one represents

• meridians—lines that run in a north to south pattern around the globe. Meridians intersect at the poles.

• orientation—any direction or location described in terms of points on a compass

• parallels—lines that run in a east to west pattern around the globe

• peninsula— a piece of land bordered by water on three sides

• piedmont— the transition region between lowlands and uplands; the rolling foothills as elevation rises to the base of a mountain range

• plain—any large, flat expanse of land

• region—a place that has common characteristics that are different from the characteristics of the surrounding areas

• relative location—concept of position described by using terms that show connections between two places, such as proximity, due north, and bordering

• thematic map—a map that uses symbols and pictures to represent different topics or themes on a map. Thematic maps must have a key/legend showing what each symbol means.

• toponym—a place name

Lesson Ideas:

MAP ANALYSIS

• Using one large projection (slide show image, poster, transparency image, etc.) as a class have students examine the four maps and answer basic observations questions:

♦ Who was the cartographer for each map?

♦ Can you tell the four cardinal directions on each map? Intermediate directions? Orientation? Why or Why not?

♦ What are some of the toponyms listed? (Are they in English?)

♦ Do any of the maps show the earth in hemispheres? Do any show a single land region? Do any show an assumption of land yet discovered? Why of Why not?

♦ Can you locate the area around Virginia?

♦ What other observations can you make?

• Using a wall map of modern Virginia, compare it with the Mayo map. Have the students identify the map title, any geographic features or symbols, and place names.

♦ Have students identify the following places on the two maps: Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay, James River, Jamestown, Richmond, the eastern Fall Line, Potomac River, Washington, D.C., Rappahannock River, Fredericksburg, Hampton Roads, Norfolk, and Cape Henry.

♦ Are any places listed on both maps? Why or why not? Examine the relative location of the listed places. Are they near or far from one another? In what direction are they from one another? Do any places border each other? What are the relative locations of other places? (i.e. Washington, D.C., Roanoke, Charlottesville, and Williamsburg) compared to Richmond?

♦ Can you theorize the reason behind each toponym? (Have students research to check their answers and report back to the class.)

♦ Do you see any patterns of exploration or human development? (i.e. settlements along rivers, coastlines, or other physical features?)

• Using cooperative learning groups, have copies of the images available for hands-on use. Have the students answer the following questions individually or in small teams.

♦ What does each map maker do to “fill in” any unexplored area?

♦ Which map has a well-defined coast but a blank inland region?

♦ Which map calls the southern lands “incognita” (“unknown”)?

♦ Which map “stops” at a chain of mountains?

♦ Which maps show a much distorted North and South America?

♦ Which map shows the most land mass; which one shows the least land mass?

♦ What else might a cartographer do to “fill in” the blank spaces of unexplored lands? Sketch several alternatives to fill in “blank space” and share.

♦ Where else have you seen maps like these four?

♦ Which map projection type might each map fit? Why?

MAP CONSTRUCTION

• Draw your mental map of the world showing as many major land and water features as you can remember. Add a title, a compass rose, and a key for any symbols you use to represent information. Compare your finished map with an atlas. How did you do?

• Draw your mental map of a local area (your school, neighborhood, or town). Add a map title, compass rose, and three symbols representing three features on your map. You must make a key to explain your symbols.

• Use the blank map handout to create an exploration map of the shown area. (The map is of an imagined area; students can be creative.)

COMPARE AND CONTRAST:

• Select two maps and place them side-by-side. Analyze and compare the maps. Have students list all the similarities they see and then list all the differences they observe. Organize the listed observations into any patterns that may develop.

• Construct a diagram and compare the wall map of modern Virginia and the Mayo map.

ART

• Imagine you are a sixteenth-century European explorer. Draw a map of the New World/ or a fictional land region on a poster board. Include each of the following with labels:

♦ ten physical features

♦ areas “unknown”

♦ trails and/or river transportation routes

♦ human settlements

♦ pictures or a collage representing any geographic information of your lands

♦ a title, a compass rose, and a key/legend

♦ Don't forget to color or antique your map!

CREATIVE WRITING

• You are part of the (fictitious) European exploration team of Lucius and Wilhelmina Orterion. The team is traveling southwest from Richmond, Virginia, into unexplored lands. Write a journal account of the discovery of a physical land feature unknown to Europeans. Describe what happened on the day of the discovery, detail what the feature looks like, name it, and explain why it was named. Share the reason behind the toponym. Add a map of your newly-explored land.

Lesson Handouts

Typus Orbis Terrarum. Panels to print PDF Handout (1 MB)

Nova Anglia, Novum Belgium, et Virginia. Panels to print PDF Handout (1 MB)

A General Map of the Known and Inhabited Parts of Virginia. Panels to print PDF Handout (951 KB)

Novae Insvlae XXVI Nova Tabvla. Panels to print PDF Handout (2 MB)

Blank Map Handout PDF Handout (109 KB)

Venn Diagram, Modern VA and Mayo's Map PDF Handout (111 KB)

Suggested Materials

Salmon, Emily J. and Edward D. C. Campbell (eds.) The Hornbook of Virginia History: A Ready-Reference Guide to the Old Dominion's People, Places, and Past. Richmond, Va.: Library of Virginia, 1994.

Stephenson, Richard W., and Marianne M. McKee. eds. Virginia in Maps: Four Centuries of Settlement, Growth, and Development. Richmond, Va.: Library of Virginia, 2000.

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