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Cartography Definition

The research and practice of making maps is cartography. Cartography, integrating science, aesthetics, and methodology, builds on the idea that reality (or an imaginary reality) can be modelled in ways that effectively convey spatial details.

The basic goals of conventional cartography are:

  • Set the agenda for the map and pick the characteristics of the object that is to be mapped. This is the main focus of map processing. The traits might be physical, like roads or masses of land or might be abstract, like political borders or toponyms.

  • Reflect the mapped object's terrain on flat media. This is the problem with map projections.

  • Decrease the sophistication of the features that are to be mapped. There is also the dilemma of generalisation.

  • To better transmit its vision to its viewer, organise the components of the map. This is the major area of focus with map design.

Cartographic Process

Evaluating the viewer and using a diagram is the first step in mapmaking. It might help in deciding the map scale, the map size and text features that are most essential to show the map colour schemes, as well as what projection is being used. It is necessary to understand this data because it will allow the map to be transparent and simple to comprehend.


The cartographer can start with making the map only after the decisions regarding size, colour, essential characteristics, and projection are identified. Most maps are produced on computers in modern cartography. Through internet sources, cartographers can collect the details they require, upload the information into their mapping software, and modify the functionality to match the necessary requirements.


Types of Maps

There exist three basic types of maps namely, thematic maps, general reference maps, and cartometric maps.

  • General Reference Maps: 

Geographical location details such as highways, rivers, lakes, seas, political borders, cities and mountains are displayed on a general reference map. Such maps can be used for political maps, road maps, some topographic maps, and a basic all-purpose map which can be used anytime and anywhere.

  • Thematic Maps: 

A particular theme and factors relating to a certain theme are represented by thematic maps. A crime map in a district, areas where a disease was already established, population size, the distribution of a species or the extent where a community can live, severe flooding, climate models and more are examples of thematic maps. Thematic maps are also used to examine spatial trends or the results of such studies.

  • Cartometric Maps: 

Cartometric maps are the ones which concentrate on parameters such as area or distance that are unique. Such maps are mostly used for guidance, navigation and are also referred to as charts. Examples of cartometric maps are aeronautical and nautical diagrams. To navigate waterways such as oceans, lakes, and rivers, nautical charts can be used, whereas aeronautical charts enable airlines to navigate safely.


Cartographic Scale

  • The size of a map determines the area that is depicted by the map. A fraction such as 1:250,000 or 1/150,000,000 typically denotes it. Such fractions mean that in the real world, standard measure on the map is equivalent to 250,000 or 50,000,000 of those same units.

  • It is beneficial to use ratios to label the scale since they could be used in every measurement device without converting from one system to the other (such as from feet to meters). A map covering a large area is classified in cartography as a small-scale map, whereas a map covering a small area is defined as a large-scale map. This relates to the map's representative fraction.

  • The 1:250,000 fraction is greater than the 1:50,000,000 fraction, much like 1/2 is greater than 1/4 and 1/3 is greater than 1/6. A simpler way of describing the difference, though, is that the characteristics of a large-scale map (buildings, highways, rivers, etc.) are greater than the characteristics of a small-scale map.

  • It must be remembered that although there is no standard unit of measurement for the absolute level of a map, like meters, feet, or miles, the scale bar is used as a reference bar for map readers.

Importance of Cartography

  • Cartography is useful because it encourages spatial visualisation of data. This can display population spatial trends, economic growth, urbanization, as well as more.

  • Cartography often aids in the preparation and rehabilitation of disasters and allows emergency responders to consider what is going on in the region where they operate.

  • Cartography is useful because it encourages spatial visualisation of data. This can display population spatial trends, economic growth, urbanization, as well as more.

  • Cartography often aids in the preparation and rehabilitation of disasters and allows emergency responders to consider what is going on in the region where they operate.

  • Also, people use maps every day as they drive, locate restaurants, shops, and track their online transactions as they reach, with GPS and maps readily available on mobiles and other devices. The value of cartography is rising and becoming profoundly ingrained in our lives.

Fun Facts about Cartography 

  • Ever since ancient times, lots of people are making maps. Thousands of years ago, cave drawings depicted hunting areas.

  • Thanks to satellite imagery and GPS today's mapmaking is very accurate because of such factors. However, the earliest maps were constructed using basic methods and mathematical equations.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. How Old Has Cartography Been?

Ans. For thousands of years, old maps have indeed been part of human culture, and are said to date back to the times as 16,500 B.C. Fortunately, on Babylonian clay tablets from around 2300 B.C., the oldest surviving maps are kept. In human history, the background of cartography depicts the growth of mapmaking technology or cartography. For centuries, maps have become one of the greatest significant human innovations, helping humans to describe and navigate the world their way.

Q2. Whose Cartography Was the Very First?

Ans. The first old Greek to construct a map of the ancient universe was Anaximander. It is because of this reason that many regard him as the first mapmaker. He claimed that the world was of cylindrical shape, like that of a pillar of stone, hanging in space. The occupied part of his universe was spherical, disk-shaped, and possibly situated on the cylinder's upper surface.

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