Maps - Definition



Cartography is the art and science of expressing the known physical features of the earth graphically by maps and charts. No one knows who drew, molded, laced together, or scratched out in the dirt the first map. But a study of history reveals that the most pressing demands for accuracy and detail in mapping have come as the result of military needs. Today, the complexities of tactical operations and deployment of troops is such that it is essential for all soldiers to be able to read and interpret their maps in order to move quickly and effectively on the battlefield. This chapter explains maps; it includes the definition and purpose of a map and describes map security, types, categories, and scales.

A map is a graphic representation of a portion of the earth's surface drawn to scale, as seen from above. It uses colors, symbols, and labels to represent features found on the ground. The ideal representation would be realized if every feature of the area being mapped could be shown in true shape. Obviously this is impossible, and an attempt to plot each feature true to scale would result in a product impossible to read even with the aid of a magnifying glass.

a. Therefore, to be understandable, features must be represented by conventional signs and symbols. To be legible, many of these must be exaggerated in size, often far beyond the actual ground limits of the feature represented. On a 1:250,000 scale map, the prescribed symbol for a building covers an area about 500 feet square on the ground; a road symbol is equivalent to a road about 520 feet wide on the ground; the symbol for a single-track railroad (the length of a cross-tie) is equivalent to a railroad cross­tie about 1,000 feet on the ground.

b. The portrayal of many features requires similar exaggeration. Therefore, both the selection of features to be shown, as well as their portrayal, are in accord with the guidance established by the Defense Mapping Agency.