Where the Pirate Map Came From 

Pirate MapPirate Map

The pirate map is probably more of a fictional than an historical item. There are no documented cases of any pirates actually creating treasure maps and no authenticated maps have ever been found, although there have been claims that historical maps discovered in a wide variety of locations were really pirate’s treasure maps. Of course, there would be some secrecy if someone did come into possession of one of these maps.

The legends of buried pirate’s treasure began with the infamous Captain Kidd. William Kidd began his life as a Scottish sailor and some historians question whether or not he was a true pirate. There is proof that he was a privateer. A privateer is a person who owns a ship or has been put in charge of one to attack foreign ships during wartime.


Privateers were used extensively by the British, French, Americans and other countries until the mid to late 1800s. In addition to acting as warships, privateers were authorized to attack any foreign trade vessels, take all of the merchandise and either take the ship or destroy it. 

The privateers had different agreements with their sponsors. In some cases, the captain and crew were allowed to keep all of the “booty” recovered from the vessel. In others, they were required to return a percentage to the government.

Arguments often occurred between the sponsor company and the privateer concerning their respective “cuts”. It’s kind of easy to understand why some privateers would decide to become pirates…but let me get back to Captain Kidd.

The Legend Of Pirate Maps 

The legend of the these maps began when Kidd was believed to have buried treasure on a small island near Long Island, New York. Shortly after plundering a ship called the Adventure Prize, he was arrested for piracy, sent to England, tried and eventually executed. Kidd was aware that the government was chasing him and distributed a large portion of the booty to family and friends. 

The origin of the legend about Kidd’s pirate maps is unknown, although it is known that the Governor of New York found a small amount of treasure on the island and sent it to England to be used as evidence during Kidd’s trial. Since the Governor found only a small amount of treasure and the take from the Adventure Prize was known to be a large one, people started heading out to the island to dig. 

As far as we know, no one ever found any more treasure, but who knows? If you found a pirate map and subsequently found the treasure, you might decide to keep the whole thing secret, especially if it was shortly after Kidd’s execution. After all, the treasure belonged to someone else.

The “X” marks the spot maps originated with the book Treasure Island, written by Robert Louis Stevenson in the late 1880s. While the tale was inspired by “real-life” pirates, some of the things that have come to be associated with pirates, such as the eye patch and the parrot, came from the novel, not from real life.

Stevenson may have come up with the idea of the pirate map after learning that temporarily burying gold and other treasures was relatively common among naval commanders who took a prize on land for one reason or another. For example, Vice Admiral Francis Drake, a famous privateer and the second captain to take his ship completely around the world, took to the land to raid a train containing Spanish gold and silver.

He buried the loot for a short time until he could return with his crew and get it aboard ship.Nobody knows if there is pirate’s treasure buried out there somewhere. But anybody would be happy to have a pirate map and dream about the gold that lies under the “X”.

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