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Types of Maps

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What are Maps?

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A symbolic representation with selected characteristics of the place, which are usually drawn on a flat surface, is known as a map. These maps represent all the information about this world in a very simple and lucid manner. Via these different maps, we get to know about the world by showing their sizes and shapes of different countries and continents. The map also marks the locations of features, and distances between these places.

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In our map study requirement, we come across different types of maps among which generally there are 2 basic maps: 

  • Topographic and General Maps – which summarizes the actual landscape. 

  • Other Maps, especially the Thematic Maps – that comment on specific feature types of a place.  


Types of Maps 

Maps are of varied types which attempt to show different classification.  These maps are placed in two groups: 

  • Reference Maps

  • Thematic Maps.

Reference maps show the location of the geographic boundaries where the physical features of the Earth or the cultural features like the places, cities, and roads are marked. Reference Maps include – Political Maps, Physical Maps, Road Maps, Topographic Maps, Time Zone Maps, Geological Maps, and the Zip Code Maps. 

These thematic maps show a variation of a topic that extends across a geographic area. Thematic Maps include as follows – Weather Maps, Income Maps, Resource Maps.  

Now, We will Study Some Commonly used Maps Which are as follows:

  1. Political Boundary Maps 

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Political Maps are those maps that show boundaries between the countries, states, and other political units. A commonly used political map in the US shows almost 50 states. 

  1. Election Result Maps 

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They are considered some type of political maps which show election results by the geographic subdivision or by voting district. In the US, for the presidential election, the red-state/blue-state maps are in use. 

  1. Physical Maps 

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This map shows the topographic land structure. There are different colour gradient reliefs. Like for example, Dark greens are used for sea-level elevations, green grades to tan, and brown for elevation increase. While the highest elevation is the shades of grey. 

  1. Digital Road, Street, and Highway Maps 

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Google Maps have special tools which enable the feature for us to search the “nearby” restaurants, hotels, bars and pubs, museums, bike shops, pizza hub, schools, etc. If Google Maps is allowed to use our current location then we can easily reach our destination following the google direction.  

  1. Topographic Map 

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This type of map shows the earth’s topography by using brown-coloured contour lines. Roads, place names, streams, and other features are shown on this map distinctively. 

  1. Time Zone Maps 

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In this type of map, the world’s 24-hour time zones are displayed in different colour bands. By following the numbers on top and bottom of the map, we can determine the time interval between these two locations. 

  1. Geologic Map 

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In the geological map, the road and the street colours are faintly displayed with colour. These geological maps are important first tools to conduct an earthquake hazard. 

  1. Zip Code Maps 

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Zip Code Maps shows zip codes in various states. They are the maps that show the approximate boundary of the zip code areas that are used by the United States of Postal Service. They are plotted over a base map which shows the zip code coverage area.

  1. Weather Maps 

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Weather Maps show higher temperatures that are being projected in a country. This map is prepared by the National Weather Service operating in all the nations. 

  1. Species Distribution Maps 

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These maps show specific plants and animals which are to be found in that place. 

Other Types of Maps Which further help in Their Own Way are as follows:

  1. Income Maps

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  1. Resource Maps

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  1. Earthquake Maps

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  1. Plate Tectonic Maps

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  1. The Map is Drawn on a Clay Tablet

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Types of Maps and Charts Available 

As the range of maps and charts which are now available in many of the countries is so extensive that if we make a complete listing of that, it will be impractical enough. The list would primarily include aeronautical (that is the worldwide and national), congressional or political districts, population distribution, geologic (with various scales), highways (that have national and secondary political units), historical, hydrographic (with coastal areas, inland waters, foreign waters), national forests, other forest types, public land survey plats, soil, and topographic (that are mainly national and foreign).

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What is meant by Map Specification?

Ans. All of the maps we have discussed in brief have a thing in common. They all have a definite set of rules that determine how the maps are made and what they all indicate. This is known as Specification. The specification must also contain all such information about the assumptions made in the map, all limitations and its information sources should also be mentioned.  This representation of information is called 'metadata' which is an important aid to those who read and interpret the maps. 


Single and stand-alone map (like the maps with tourist resorts) is very simple to study.  While maps can have other extremes as well, like for series maps, the specification is much likely to be very complex because it is important that all these maps in the series should have similar content, as well as maintain consistency.  

Q2. What are Contour Lines in a Topographic Map?

Ans. Contour lines are the connecting points that share the same elevation. The elevation is shared at those places where they are closely spaced together, but they never intersect each other, this elevation is changing quite rapidly in shorter distances and the terrain is very steep.


Contours are an outline, especially a curve or an irregular figure. The line represents the outline. This is the general form or structure of something which is the most elevated area.  


Contour lines are mainly used to show the elevation on a topographic map. These lines or isolines on a map also connect these points with the same elevation. All the contour line also shows a different height of elevation.

Q3. How are Clay Tablet Maps Used?

Ans. In the Near East in ancient times, these clay tablets were used as a writing medium, especially for writing it in the form of cuneiform, through the Bronze Age civilization, and also into the Iron Age time. The Cuneiform characters were left imprinted on a wet clay tablet that was a stylus often made of reed.