John Smith Virginia Map

Student activities to explore Captain John Smith's 1612 Map of Virginia Student activities for John Smith's Map of Virginia

John Smith's Virginia Map is still studied today.

Granted, the Jamestown leader didn't know what lay more than 120 miles past the Atlantic coast, and he didn't have the accuracy of modern GPS to make his map. But the map remains signficant for a number of reason.

In the lessons accompanying the Jamestown & Roanoke Unit Study, students will have fun on the John Smith Virginia Map Scavenger Hunt.

Note the map's eastern orientation. North is to the right. In this activity student's brush up on the map-reading skills. Turns out that Compass Rose really is important.

The Name Powhatan

Map of Powhatan 1612 Virginia
Map shows the river, the village, the confederacy, and the chieftain with the name "Powhatan."

The term "Powhatan" can become confusing since it refers to so many things. It is stated to mean "mountain falls" in the Algonquian language. The river and the village (which is east and down river of the falls) were likely named after the falls. As the leading village in the alliance of more than 30 villages, the entire group of Algonquian villages were referred to as the Powhatan Confederacy. And Powhatan, whose real name was Wahunsenacah, was the leader of the confederacy. He is sometimes referred to as Chief Powhatan, though that term was may never have been applied to him in his life.

Finding Powhatan, Jamestown, and Werowocomoco

Map of Powhatan Answer Key

In addition to locating the village, falls, river, confederacy, and picture of the chieftain named Powhatan, students also identify the following in their scavenger hunt:

Rivers on Smith's 1612 Map of Virginia

Powhatan River, Village, Confederacy

The major rivers on the Chesapeake Bay are easy to see, but their names can be a bit hard to find. Our answer key gives the names as well as an arrow pointing to it's name on the 1612 map.

From south to north: We use the same (and sometimes unique) spelling that Smith has on his map. The modern name is in parenthesis.

Native Tribes

Native Tribes on John Smith's Map of Virginia

More than 200 hundred native villages are identified on the map.

Ten different tribes are identified by region.

Scavenger Hunt: Fun Parts of the Map

Captain John Smith's 1612 Map of Virginia Scavenger Hunt

Here's students' favorite part of the scavenger hunt:

Find the Native Longhouses for Werowances

Longhouses on Smith's Map of Virginia

The Map Key shows the symbols for village houses as well as the longhouses of the werowances (or chieftains.)

This answer key shows the location of:

John Smith's Maltese Cross

Location of 27 Maltese Crosses on John Smith's Map of Virginia

Find the 27 maltese crosses.

These crosses represent the furthest up a river Smith explored.

Students can cut from cross to cross like a dot-to-dot to better see the area that Smith had explored. Visually, you can see that area as the dense area in the middle. It makes sense he knew more about the tribes and chiefs where he had actually gone. The other information was obtained by natives who indicated what was further ahead up the river.

At you can follow a project to recreate the markers where Smith left his brass crosses and indicated it on his map.

Another question for the astute student: Where else have we seen the Maltese cross employed? (Answer: secret code of Governor John White and the Roanoke settlers.)

Sources for Maps for Teachers/Students

Good news: we provide a copy of the map in our unit study for students to use (as well as 6 answer keys for the teacher.) Bad news: 8.5 x 11 inch paper just doesn't do this map justice as tiny features are difficult to find.

Here are some helps to either buy larger maps or view on-line copies that can be enlarged with your mouse.

Original: LOC

Smith's map is stored in the Library of Congress:

Use the URL address above for a map that can be enlarged on your screen.

Original is 60 X 78 cm (24 x 31 inches)

Faded Original

Just for the fun of comparison, here is a Library of Congress picture of an old copy, complete with fold marks and wear and tear:

National Park Service: Large Map and Articles

This is a nice sized, visible copy which includes articles about the map and cartography in the 1600's:

Original Download of Smith's Published Work

This is an online reprint which includes the map and Smith's article about the Virginia landscape:

Older Colored Copy

The colored copies are easier to read. Here is an older coloration that can be enlarged on your screen:!/

For Sale: 15 x 13 inches

The teacher that plans ahead can have paper copies on hand. Historic Jamestown sells 15 x 13 maps for only $3.99 (at the time of this writing.)

More Options

Check Amazon, Ebay, Museoteca and other sources for map reprints. The day of the writing I saw a very attractive, 11 x 14 inch, multi-color on white paper reprint on Ebay only $13.95. Larger sizes available (at larger prices naturally.)

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