What are Maps?

What Does Maps Mean

We explain what maps are, their history, elements, types and uses. Also, mental, cognitive and conceptual maps.

A map is a symbolic representation of the surface of our planet.

What are maps?

Maps are in general geographical, geopolitical or geological representations of the earth's surface , which try to take note of the most representative, interesting or relevant elements of it, to serve as a document for researchers, explorers, tourists or specialists.

Maps are two-dimensional representations of a certain territory , which can have different types of shapes: flat, spherical, etc. They offer relevant information in a set of signs, symbols, drawings, and dimensions , depending on the specific focus.

For example, physical maps have indications regarding the relief , while geopolitical maps emphasize the capital , borders and political and historical relations.

Related to plans, sketches, and other spatial graphic representations, maps serve as a document for studying and understanding the geography of an area. They are also used to locate us from specific references within an unknown territory.

For this, the maps obey a set of conventions in terms of scale , limits and highlighted elements , depending on whether it is the map of a city , a cemetery or a subway.

Maps are the result of cartography .

See also: Topography

History of maps

Maps are as old as civilization itself. They arose as soon as the human being had the need to travel unknown or infrequent territories, either as part of exploration, trade or conquest initiatives .

The earliest recorded maps date from ancient Mesopotamia , made on tablets 5,000 years ago. But the first to be part of a formal cartographic initiative, that is, the first scientific maps, come from classical Greco-Roman antiquity.

Thales of Miletus is credited with the first world map , which conceived of the territories known at that time as a disk that floats on water . And to Ptolemy, centuries later, the first maps that included meridians and parallels , useful for navigation and exploration.

Cartography and maps had a real explosion at the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Modern Era , when the great European adventurers and explorers such as Vasco Da Gama or Christopher Columbus set out to travel the seas.

This laid the foundations for the expansion of colonial empires, such as Spain, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, which carried out important cartographic initiatives to be able to know, organize and distribute the colonized territories in America , Africa and Asia . This is the reason why in Africa there are countries with completely straight borders, that is, artificially drawn.

Currently, there are interactive maps fed by satellite services, thanks to which we can find ourselves in real time in any city in the world. Seen this way, the next frontiers to be drawn for cartography and maps lie outside the planet, at the confines of the vast Solar System .

What are maps for?

Maps help us orient ourselves using a compass or landmarks.

Maps are used to find our location in unfamiliar terrain . Together with a compass, they allow us to trace a navigation route, and depending on the type of map, they also provide us with pertinent information about where we are.

Pirates used maps to remember where their loot had been buried. Architects and city planners use them to study the growth of cities and plan urban design. Explorers use them to reach their destination, tourists to orient themselves in unfamiliar cities, and geologists to search for underground deposits. There are maps for everything.

Elements of a map

Maps usually have the following elements, as a minimum:

  • Qualification. The maps present titles that make explicit to the reader what the plane is that he is observing.
  • Fountain. Where was the information displayed on the map extracted from or who created the map we are seeing.
  • Traced. The set of lines that represent geographic, urban, topographic borders, etc.
  • Symbols. The set of marks and signs that make up the additional information on the map, such as cities, capitals, airports, etc. Of particular importance are those that indicate the cardinal orientation (where is North, for example).
  • Legend. A box in one corner of the map that explains what each symbol that the reader will find on the map means.

Map types

Physical maps represent relief.

Depending on its specificity, there are different types of map, such as:

  • Physical maps. They represent the land surface, taking into account not only cities and human settlements, but also relief, hydrography and geographical features.
  • Political maps. They represent the territory of a region , divided according to the current borders of the nations , thus marking the limits between one and another, specifying the location of their capitals and other relevant data for the world organization.
  • Geological maps. They show the earth's crust and make a count of its main deposits, geological substrates and other specialized information.
  • Hydrological maps. They focus on the representation of rivers, lakes and seas , as well as groundwater reservoirs in the continental crust.
  • Urban maps. They are maps of a city or a sector of it, in which the streets, services, tourist information, etc. are detailed.

Mental maps

Mind maps are a type of scheme or diagram used to represent a set of ideas , words, or concepts that are linked together in a specific way. They use a set of lines, drawings or signs reminiscent of those on maps (hence their name).

Mind maps are an effective method to recall information or to convey it graphically. However, they can sometimes be a bit chaotic, as they are due to the way the individual thinks about these issues, rather than the ideal way of transmitting them to a third party.

More in: Mind Maps

Conceptual maps

Concept maps allow you to prioritize information in different ways.

Concept maps are part of the learning techniques most used by students, insofar as they allow them to develop their own cognitive map of the subject they must learn. They organize the information according to importance, closeness, connection or any other objective or subjective criteria .

Learning with this type of technique is considered among the active learning methods, in which the student takes a leading role in the acquisition of knowledge, instead of a passive role in which he simply memorizes and repeats.

Follow on: Concept map

Cognitive maps

Cognitive maps are, broadly speaking, mental maps designed for the study or learning of a subject. They use a metaphorical visual content, useful to invite the observer to establish mnemonic links, to associate concepts and, ultimately, to learn.

They were introduced to teaching in 1948 by Edward Tolman , and have continued to be used formally and informally ever since.

Go up

This website uses third-party cookies