Historical ecologists and research cartographers are using historical pre-Revolution military maps produced by the British to create a 21st Century digital rendering of the topography of Manhattan in the 17th Century, before the arrival of European colonists. The New Yorker has a slideshow of a number of images that are attempts to show Manhattan as it was occupied solely by Lenape Indians. The basis for the topographical model was drawn from this 1782 map* drawn up by the British military to help defend the colony from George Washington and the Continental Army. The image above is a rendering of what a 17th Century Times Square looked like in comparison to West 42nd St. today.
The Manahatta Project, which is an undertaking of the Wildlife Conservation Society, is scheduled for completion in time for the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's arrival in New York Harbor. Manahatta meant "land of many hills" to the Lenape Indians who preceded Dutch, British, and other immigrants to the region. The British military map is similar to the Viele Water Map, drawn up in 1874 by Egbert Viele, who charted the hydrology of Manhattan and the West Bronx. Viele's map, which shows the springs, streams, marshes, and other features of New York, is still consulted today because of its historic relevance to the nature of pre-development Manhattan.
*We are aware that the military portion of the American Revolution was effectively completed in 1781 at Yorktown and that the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783.