Maps: Definition | History | Types

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The different types of maps that exist illustrate the complexity of the human being and the geographical organization of the area in which we live. These graphics-related elements can take the most unlikely form, depending on the standards used in the design. In this article we will see the definition of maps, history and all the types of maps that you may know.

What is a map? Definition

A map is a symbolic representation of a terrain that details symbolic proportions and scales between elements, such as cities, countries, regions; or even smaller surfaces such as buildings, constructions, etc. Most maps are drawn to a consistent scale to express a relationship between two or more units of measure.

The word ‘map’ originated from the Latin word ‘mappa’, which means napkin or paper. Why? Because these were the usual materials on which the first maps of the world were drawn.

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What are maps for?

The usefulness of maps is as old as our desire to explore; maps locate us in space. From the wall paintings in Egypt to the maps of the 21st century, much learning and unlearning has taken place in the process of perfecting the art of depicting the world on a two-dimensional surface, giving rise to what are now known as World Maps.

The graphic representation of the landscape features of an area of the Earth and their symbolic representation are at the heart of world maps. Maps that reflect information other than land area or distance are called cartograms. General purpose maps of the world, such as atlas maps and road maps, provide different information on a single map.

history of maps

World maps arose out of necessity and evolved as a marker of a civilization’s progress. Cave paintings and rock carvings, dating back to 12,000 B.C. C., the first maps of the world-type representations that have helped to recognize landscape features such as mountains, rivers, valleys and Neolithic cities were considered.

To find the oldest specimen of world maps, one has to refer to the wooden tablets from Babylon (present-day Iraq) and the land drawings found in Egypt. These two civilizations were among the first to demonstrate their world mapping skills.

Long before the Greeks began creating world maps, the Babylonians and Egyptians had made various attempts to represent the shape and extent of the Earth. However, your mapping objective is restricted to your local needs. The baton passed to the Greeks and Romans who refined the art of map making. Ptolemy’s ‘Geography’ was considered a remarkable work in 150 AD

After a long hiatus in the Middle Ages, the world refocused on world mapping during the Renaissance period. With the invention of the printing press and the growth of major publishers, maps became accessible to all. The establishment of institutions such as the French Academy of Sciences gave an additional impetus to the map-making process.

The first traces of thematic maps could be seen in the late 18th century when maps were produced to record the spread of a particular event, especially the spread of a disease or the extent of a flood.

Modern maps of the world are drawn based on the borrowed concept that a bird’s-eye view of a landscape is ideal for creating a map. With exposure to scientific knowledge and understanding of geography, world maps began to become more complex and accurate.

In this YouTube video you can see the history of the maps:

map types

There are various types of world maps and each type presents a different type of information. World maps often include a compass to indicate which direction is north. They also include a scale so users can estimate distances. The following is a list of the main types of world maps with a brief description of what they cover.

climatic maps

A climate map provides generic information about the climate and precipitation in a region. Cartographers use different colors to represent different climate or precipitation zones on the climate map. They can also show the specific climate zones of an area based on temperature, the amount of snow it receives, or the average number of cloudy days.

Economic or resource maps

Economic or resource maps attempt to represent the type of natural resources or economic activity predominant in an area through the use of different symbols or colors.

physical maps

Physical maps represent the physical features of an area that can include mountains, rivers, or lakes. Bodies of water are usually shown in blue. Colors are also used to show differences in elevations on the earth. While green is used to represent lower elevations, orange or brown shows higher elevations.

More information about the physical maps you can see the page

Example: Physical map of Spain .

Example: Physical map of Argentina .

political maps

Political maps of the world do not depict any physical or topographical features. They indicate country capitals, major cities, and political borders, including state and national borders. Depending on the detail of the world map, they can also include locations of cities, both large and small.

Example: Political World Map .

Example: Political Europe Map .

road maps

Road maps are one of the most widely used types of maps. People use them to plan trips and driving directions. Depending on the detail, these maps show highways and main and secondary roads as well as airports, railways, city locations and other points of interest such as parks, monuments, etc.

topographic maps

Topographic maps feature contour lines to represent the shape and elevation of a particular area. Lines that are close together indicate steep terrain, while lines that are far apart indicate flat terrain. Although topographic maps are similar to physical maps in function, as they show different features of the physical landscape, they are different because topographic maps use contour lines, not colors, to show changes in the landscape.

thematic maps

Thematic maps focus on a particular theme or theme. They are different from the other six general reference map types in that they not only show physical or political features such as rivers, cities, roads, elevations, or political divisions. These items are only displayed as background information and landmarks to complement the particular theme of the map.

We have prepared world maps, Europe maps and South America map in excellent quality and without watermark for you! You can find them under the respective titles in our menu 😉

scale of a map

Since maps are smaller than the areas they represent, the distances shown on them are much smaller than the distances on the ground they represent. The ratio of the map distance to the actual distance is called the map scale. As with any tool or device, proper use can be challenging without proper guidance. The scale of a map simply serves that purpose. The scale of a map is a relationship between the distance on a world map and the actual distance from the ground. They are usually mentioned on the outer edge of a map along with the legend. The map scale on most maps is usually a very large ratio since they are, after all, a physical representation of planet Earth. A 1:100,000 scale map, for example, means that every 1 cm on the map equals 1 km on the ground.

There are two main types of map scales and they are bar and lexical scales. The bar scale is most commonly used. In this, the cartographer provides a visual guide to perform distance calculations. A lexical scale is one in which the cartographer specifies the conversion of distance into words. It is generally considered less practical and therefore less common.

If you are interested in testing your knowledge of map scale, you can play this game on Educaplay . Highly recommended!

how to read a map

Maps are the basic tools of geography that represent spatial phenomena on paper. There are certain rules and conventions that must be followed in order to read a map efficiently. All world maps have a legend or key in one corner that specifies what the different symbols used on the map mean. A dashed line, for example, is often used to represent a border. Map symbols used in one country are often used for different purposes in other countries, so it is important to read the legend carefully to understand and interpret the symbols correctly.

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The next important thing in understanding a map is interpreting the scale of the map. Since world maps are representative of a larger portion of the earth, they are drawn to scale. The scale of a map is a relationship between the distance on a map and the actual distance on the ground. A map should provide orientation and is determined by an arrow pointing in the north direction. All world maps have four cardinal directions and they are north, south, east and west. Some maps of the world, including topographical maps, will point to “true north”, ie the north pole, and magnetic north, where the compass points.

Uses of maps

Maps are primarily used to help us find our location and navigate to our desired destination or preferred landmark. These cartographic representations help us find important places, study and compare different places, and also predict the weather. There are many different types of maps, including topographic maps and weather maps, to provide different types of information.

The first maps were created by hand and were made during long and arduous journeys. Over time, they became more and more accurate, and today, travelers can reach their destinations as safely and quickly as possible.

Today, the use of maps is not just limited to travelers. They have become an important tool for research and planning. Maps are used to determine where a communications tower should be located. They are used in urban and regional planning to decide the location of schools, public facilities, road development, and the orderly organization of space through zoning and other techniques.

Maps are used as legal documents nationally and internationally to attest to land ownership and boundaries.

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