Science History

History of Cartography

The Tabula Rogeriana

Our world, as we know it today, has several features that we can often see in images. Because of these images or maps, we can visualize and appreciate the entirety of our planet, and we can also use them for directional purposes.

The use of maps is not something new. Furthermore, people used them for thousands of years. However, earlier versions of maps are not as accurate compared to those that we use in our modern world. It is because of the lack of technology available during ancient times.

Moreover, people back then already took an interest in creating maps and unraveling the great mysteries of the Earth. That is why it led to the development of a branch of science called cartography, which focuses on the study of making maps.

Over the years, people used different methods and tools to practice cartography. However, the ancient practice of making maps involves enormous time, effort, food, and supplies. It is because people used to explore the ocean or land to give cartographers a clearer view of the land. As science and technology evolved, scientists developed better ways to create geographical images of the Earth.

Looking back at our history, we can see that cartography was not a simple task to do. Furthermore, it holds a great part in our history, which led to the development of various countries all around the globe.

In this article, let us look into the more profound definition of cartography, along with the other fields of science related to it. Furthermore, how exactly does this field of study originated?

What is Cartography?

As mentioned earlier, cartography is a field of science devoted to the study and practice of making maps. It uses various methods, tools, as well as other scientific knowledge to create maps, efficiently and effectively.

Maps created by cartographers provide different information about a place, including political boundaries, landmasses, bodies of water, roadways, etc. The modern practice of cartography uses various fields of science, such as geography.

There are different types of maps used in cartography, which serve various roles in the observation of our planet. These maps vary in detail and other features, which provide us more specific information on what’s happening on the surface of the Earth.

Modern cartography developed more efficient ways of creating and printing maps. It is apparent in our world today that maps are more common than it was in ancient times. The latest technologies simplified the process of creating maps, as well as producing it to people around the globe. Today, we can utilize the internet to search for maps more easily.

What is the origin of Cartography?

We can trace back the earliest created maps to thousands of years ago. However, the term ‘map’ was not yet well-defined during ancient times. That is why the oldest known map sparked questions to many historians since it might be something else.

The earliest forms of maps usually consist of rock carvings of cities. Some of the ancient maps are wall paintings of cities, as well as bodies of water. Ancient Greek and Roman were one of the first civilizations to utilize and develop maps and cartography as a whole.

During the 6th century BCE, ancient Greeks and Romans already started the practice of making maps. In the 2nd century CE, the mathematician and geographer Claudius Ptolemy wrote his treatise on cartography, entitled Geographia, which includes the ‘Ptolemy’s world map.’

Fast forward to the middle ages when cartography made a breakthrough in its development. This period includes the ‘Age of Exploration,’ which is a significant part of our world’s history. It was when various nations and lands were discovered by European explorers – including Cristopher Colombus, Ferdinand Magellan, and Marco Polo, to name a few.

During this time, cartography became more known since many people strived to travel the world and discover new places, which, in turn, created a broader view of the planet. Another factor for its development is the creation of the compass and telescope, which drastically improved efficiency and accuracy.

Interestingly, the science of cartography reached an incredibly advanced stage during the rise of technology in the 20th century. This period introduced many different methods and tools for creating more accurate maps of the world. Some of these tools are aerial photography, satellite imagery, and remote sensing, which produced outstanding results. This modern process of cartography allows more precise methods for mapping various physical features, including coastlines, roads, buildings, watersheds, and topography.

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