Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
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?