Monday, September 6, 2010

Early Images of Virginia Indians

In 1493 Columbus wrote a letter about his discoveries that was translated and published across Europe. That report opened a period in which the New World became a subject of great interest to Europeans. Especially fascinating were the native peoples. The name "Indians" derived from Columbus's belief that the islands he found were in the Indian Ocean and was used in England as early as 1553.

Europeans learned about the Virginia Indians through both words and pictures. Yet as important as the writings of explorers and colonists were, the most powerful impressions came from prints. The coastal areas around the Chesapeake Bay were visited by a number of European explorers in the 1500s. No images of the natives were produced, however, until the English became interested in colonization in the 1580s.

In January 1585 Queen Elizabeth consented to Sir Walter Ralegh's request that the land along the North American coast be named in her honor as "Virginia." The William W. Cole Collection contains many of the engravings of Virginia, produced from 1590 to the 1800s, that influenced European opinions of, and thus policies toward, the natives.

For more, including the images: Click Here.

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