Amazon Prime Video recently (March 6th and 7th) released the last two updates to their maps they have been teasing as a part of their social media marketing campaign. This is my speculation (and only speculation) on what the maps mean.

There are two distinct timeframes - the first four maps were shown in a progressive release with additional names being added to build anticipation, leading up to "Map 4" as I will refer to it here - this map dates to the Second Age or early Third Age, between S.A. 3320 and perhaps T.A. 1000 covering the timeframe when the Last Alliance of Elf and Men defeat Sauron and Second Age ends, Arwen is born and many other events. The map released on March 7th ("Map 5") dates to S.A. 750 to circa S.A. 1000, when the Númenóreans are just starting to explore and colonize Middle-earth, Eregion is founded by the Noldor, and Sauron is just beginning to stir again. This time frame pretty much exactly matches the reign of Tar-Aldarion, the sixth King of Númenor.

Also of significance, the maps use ALL CAPS for certain locations, which I believe indicates areas of specific interest during these two time frames. I sincerely believe that Amazon is hinting at the plot-lines that the show will cover with this contrivance. Go back and take a closer look at the maps, and you will see what I mean. Some cities are in CAPS, other are not. Some place-names change from ALL CAPS on one map, to Regular Capitalization on the other map. This cannot be in error or coincidence. More on this below for each map.

Finally, there are multiple place-names that only occur in Unfinished Tales, so I think we can definitively say that Amazon has permission to be using material from here (and perhaps other books as well, too early to tell) not available to previous filmmakers.


Map 4 of Middle-earth from Amazon Prime, used with permission

Map 4

I've dated this map as coming from S.A. 3320 and covering the time-frame of the Last Alliance. This is the earliest the map can be from, as it shows the city of Osgiliath. From Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings,
"The last leaders of the Faithful, Elendil and his sons, escaped from the Downfall with nine ships, bearing a seedling of Nimloth, and the Seven Seeing-stones (gifts of the Eldar to their House); and they were borne on the wind of a great storm and cast upon the shores of Middle-earth. There they established in the North-west the Númenórean realms in exile, Arnor and Gondor. Elendil was the High King and dwelt in the North at Annúminas; and the rule in the South was committed to his sons, Isildur and Anárion. They founded there Osgiliath".
The Downfall of Numenor happens in S.A. 3319, and the founding of the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor in S.A. 3320 (both from LOTR Appendix B, "The Tale of Years"). So the map cannot be from before S.A. 3320. It is hard to put an upward bound on the map. Dol Guldur is not labeled, which was made Sauron's fortress around Third Age 1050.

Other interesting tidbits about this map: (all dates from LOTR Appendices unless otherwise noted)
  • All seven locations of the Palantíri ("Seven Seeing stones") are shown. Only Orthanc is in CAPS, so my guess is Amazon is hinting that the stones will be peripheral rather than central.
  • Mordor was chosen by Sauron as his stronghold circa S.A. 1000. He started contstructing Barad-dûr at that time, and completed it around S.A. 1600.
  • Pelargir the city was build in S.A. 2350. As it merits being written in CAPS, I am flagging this as likely a plot driving location.

It seems quite likely that the Last Alliance could be a major season-driving event for Amazon. Also, since Minas Ithil is still labeled on this map, it likely dates it to before Third Age 2002. (Aragorn was born T.A. 2931, so it seems incredibly unlikely that this map covers a "Young Aragorn".


Map 5 of Middle-earth from Amazon Prime, used with permission

Map 5

The presence of Ost-In-Edhil on the map is quite helpful. This city was founded in S.A. 750, so the map cannot be older than this. Also, it was destroyed in S.A. 1697, so that likely puts a limit on the age of the map from that side as well.

Also of note, there is nothing in what will eventually become known as Mordor - Barad-dûr is not started, and Orodruin is not yet named (the Fire-mountain). As Sauron moved here in S.A. 1000, that is likely the latest this map would date from (though Sauron kept his plans hidden for a long time, so it is possible that the cartographer was not aware of what was going on there).

One other date-able feature on the map are Eregion, overrun and destroyed in S.A. 1697 as well. We know the map must be in the Second Age, as none of the Númenórean settlements from late SA are present (Osgiliath, Minas Anor, Annûminas, etc.). Also missing is Imladris, founded in S.A. 1697.

I am fairly confident with the 1000 date, but with all of the other clues I believe the map is strongly hinting that it is based on the life of Tar-Aldarion, sixth king of Númenor. He was born in S.A. 700 and lived until S.A. 1098, and ruled Númenor from S.A. 883 until 1075. He was a mariner and sailed often from his home island to Middle-earth, he founded the port city of Lond Daer (one of the landmarks chosen by Amazon to put on the map), traveled as far inland as Tharbad (not shown on Amazon's map, but located very closely to Nîn-in-Eilph, which merited being capitalized). He was a good friend of Gil-Galad in Lindon (also a region of much note on the map). See Appendix D of Unfinished Tales for a long discourse on Lond Daer and Aldarion, and the deforesting of Middle-earth. Eryn Vorn (also capitalized) was the peninsula where the "natives" fled from the Númenóreans as they lost their lands.

Also of note (and possible subject matter intertwined or in a separate season), the Mountains of Moria are capitalized - Caradhras, Fanduidhol and Celebdil. Interestingly, they are all given their Sindarin names, not Dwarvish. Also in capitals is Nanduhirion, also known as Dimrill Dale - site of a large battle in the Third Age, not mentioned in the Second Age. Something important is afoot in this region!

Also capitalized:
  • Gundabad (Dwarven fortress, taken over by Orcs in the "mid-Second Age")
  • Ninglor (a river near Moria)
  • Ethir Anduin (mouth of the Anduin river) - Galadriel and Celeborn dwelled in this area in the SA, before moving northward)
  • Morthond (another elvish settlement in the SA, becomes Dol Amroth in the Third Age)
  • Tolfalas (an island)

And of course, pretty much all of Númenor. Clearly the island will feature heavily in the Amazon series, at least with the season(s) dealing with the time frame of Map 5.

It really feels like Galadriel will feature as many sites on the map are mentioned in conjunction with her in Unfinished Tales, along with the rise of power of Sauron (who re-emerges after defeat in the First Age around S.A. 500). The rings of power are not forged until circa S.A. 1500, with the one ring being forged S.A. 1600. It is possible these events could fit into the timeline of the map, if we assume that Barad-dûr is hidden and not yet known widely.

Also, as should be clear from all of the above, Unfinished Tales is being referenced heavily and a lot of information on the Amazon maps only appears there - not in the Appendices of Lord of the Rings. This seems to clearly indicate that Amazon has the rights to at least large portions of Unfinished Tales.

So, what are your thoughts on the map? I found two inconsistencies that go against what Tolkien wrote and had on his maps (which I have passed on to Amazon). I think in writing this up I found a third, but I want to confirm more details. Can you find any? All of mine are very minor - for the vast majority of items, Amazon really appears to have gotten these maps accurate! I even thought I had caught a bigger error (naming the river Angren), but in reading up I found Tolkien's own notes saying that actually was the correct Elvish name for the river Isen (found, of course, in Unfinished Tales.)