Olde Mappes

11 06 2010

Researchers in Museum Nan Eilean have recently uncovered an old map of Lewis, possibly dating back to pre-Arthurian times. The map was found underneath an old carpet in the Town Hall during the recent renovations there.

The map-makers of that semi-mystical time have drawn the island as it would have seemed to them, without the advantages of modern technology. Back in these days maps were commonly drawn on hand crafted parchment. This particular map is understood to have been drawn on some cured guga skin. This form of mapping was known as Guga Earth.

The map shows the main geographical features of the island but also shows the geo-political make up of Lewis, with the various small Kingdoms, Fiefdoms and Principalities highlighted. The main settlements are also shown. It is interesting to note that many of the present day Lewis place names can still track their origins back to this time.

The various off-shore islands are also mapped out. It is interesting to note that the Flannens are called the Flammable Isles. The likely origin for this name is the burning down of the original wooden lighthouse, which set fire to the whole island. The think layer of peat on the island kept the fire burning for several decades, providing a handy signal beacon to sailors.

On close inspection, a number of castles and towers can be seen dotted across the island revealing that Lewis would have been a place of turbulent interaction between the different ‘countries’ which made up the island.it is nice to see that this tradition is kept alive through the local football league.

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