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Cartography, Still a Powerful Art

Posted by Barbara Fordyce on

Cartography is a unique blend of information and art, and unlike many other modern technological fields, cartography has a deep well of history informing it.

History’s earliest known world map was scratched on clay tablets in the ancient city of Babylon sometime around 600 B.C., proving that the instinct to create a picture of of our place on earth has long existed in human culture.

Many elements of modern cartography originated with the work of the Greco-Roman scholar Ptolemy, who produced the eight-volume textbook “Geography,” around 150 A.D.,  Ptolemy produced the first maps to use mathematical principles, and many of these principles are familiar to contemporary mapmakers, even those working with highly sophisticated GIS systems.

Cartography, a Powerful Art

Throughout history, maps have been essentially authoritative documents.  The information they convey can determine land ownership, help governments levy taxes, even start or stop wars. The boundaries drawn on a map determine a whole range of relationships that exist between countries, states, cities, institutions, companies and individuals.

Because of its importance in economic matters, cartography has always received a lot of support from government and industrial institutions, who recognize the importance of having their interests properly represented on maps. 

With the increased use of GIS in important fields, ranging from agriculture to zoology, and everything in between, it's clear that economic resources will continue to pour into cartographic development.

Want to learn more about the role of GIS in the modern world? Spend some time in the GIS Lounge:

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