In the first place, what we are going to do is to proceed to determine the etymological origin of the term cartography. In doing so we will discover that it emanates from Latin and more specifically from the sum of these elements: the word charta, which can be translated as “map”, and the suffix – spelling, which is comes from the Greek word graphein which meant “to write”.
The mapping is the science that is responsible for the layout and studying geographical maps. Its origins are very old, although they cannot be specified with exactitude since the definition of the map has changed over the years.
Various wall paintings and engravings dating back several millennia before Christ are considered the first maps and, therefore, the first testimonies of cartography. The Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Arabs, and Indians were some of the civilizations that developed maps in ancient times.
Specifically, the first cartography is a mural painting that has come to be called “The Admiral’s House.” This is characterized by having been carried out within a community that lived in a coastal area during 1,600 BC.
However, throughout history there have been many other cartographic examples that were important at the time and that today are considered authentic gems:
• Map of the ancient Sumerian city of Nippur, which, according to the studies carried out, would belong to the period between the 16th and 12th centuries BC
• Chinese silk maps that had been made in the 2nd century BC These were discovered thanks to excavations carried out in the 1970’s in the Mawangdui area.
• Ancient cartographies carried out in India, which stand out for the fact that various constellations appeared, among them the Polar Bear.
• Tabula Rogeriana. It is a set of cartographies undertaken by the Arab Muhammad al-Idrisi, in the year 1154, and which focus on places such as Africa and the area of the Indian Ocean.
The first maps were flat charts (latitudes were represented on a constant scale as if the Earth were flat). The invention of devices such as the compass and the quadrant contributed to the creation of more accurate maps.
The technology has always played an important role in the advancement of cartography. From telescopes to scanners to satellites and computers, numerous inventions helped improve map making and analysis.
Cartography can be divided into two main types: general cartography and thematic cartography. General cartography is responsible for the production of maps aimed at the widest public, with various references. A world map or a map of a country are examples of general cartography.
Thematic cartography, on the other hand, specializes in maps of specific themes, such as soy crops in the province of Buenos Aires or neighborhoods where the Latino population predominates in New York.
Another distinction can be made between topographic maps (which reflect the elevation of the terrain) and topological maps (simplified maps that do not focus on geographic or scale details, but on the information they convey).