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Deciphering a Map
To decipher maps, several steps should be
followed. Each step seeks pertinent information about the map and its
context in both time and place.
- Content: What is the map's title and/or what is the map about?
- What part of the earth does it represent?
- What is the scale of the map?
- How is the map oriented (that is, what direction is at the top of
- Does the map depict the themes of geography:
- human-environment interactions
- regional identity?
- In what language(s) is the map prepared?
- Authorship: Who made the map (cartographer and/or publisher)? Who
- Sponsorship: Who provided the incentive or funding for the map?
- Date: When was the map made?
- Origin: Where was the map made?
- Creation: By what processes was the map drafted and/or printed?
- Audience: For whom was the map made?
- Function: For what purpose(s) was the map intended, and how was it
- Context: Where does the map fit in the past, what were its sources,
and for what other maps did it serve as a source?
The above nine steps lead to the main historical focus:
Historical Source/Interpretation: What does the map tell us about
its creator and his/her time?