Different Types of World Maps


It is a known fact that people hold different visions of visualizing the world. Some conceptualize through pictures, maps, and globes while others contemplate through satellite imagery, hand-drawn creations or clay tablets.

To help you get a better understanding of the various forms that world maps take, we’ve outlined different categories below into types where they depict everything from exploration and war period maps to areas of religious beliefs and shipping routes.

  • POLITICAL MAP: A political map essentially shows state and national boundaries of a place (countries, states, and counties). It also shows the location of cities with respect to each other using differing colors. Instead of showing viewers what exists in the land, it shows those imaginary lines that serve to separate countries, states, territories, and cities.
  • PHYSICAL MAP: A physical map is one which shows only the physical features of a place or country, like rivers, mountains, forests, and lakes. These physical features are usually shown with different colors. For example, water-bodies are shown in blue, places of low and high elevation are shown with dark green and light green colors respectively which eventually becomes orange. Mountains and valleys are depicted in brown.
  • TOPOGRAPHIC MAP: In modern mapping, a topographic map is a map which is characterized by large-scale detail and quantitative representation of relief, usually using contour lines, but historically using a variety of methods.Essentially these maps are similar to physical maps which show physical features of an area. The most significant difference is the representation of elevation and landscape which are shown with contour lines instead of colors.
  • CLIMATIC MAP: A climatic map is a map that shows the details of climatic conditions prevailing in different areas of the world. These maps show different areas such as tropical zones that are dry and humid or the places which receive more and less rainfall or snow.
  • RESOURCE MAP: A resource map is a helpful tool that helps one to make better decisions by giving a better insight into the location and distribution of resources. These resource maps record, track and analyze resources at a glance with a feature showing the live distribution of resources in a relevant area. Different symbols and letters are used to depict prevailing activities and resources present in the area.
  • SHIPPING/TRADE ROUTE WORLD MAPS: Trade routes are considered of utmost importance, not only in modern times but since the time commercial activities along the coastline began to flourish. These shipping routes are mainly comprised of pipeline transport, rail routes, automobiles and cargo airlines that are recognized and brought into use. Many new trade routes have been developed to allow easy transportation of goods and services. These shipping routes promote trade over water bodies.
  • WORLD MAPS FOR MARITIME NAVIGATION: The giant ships that sail earth’s oceans require maps to track routes and be aware of the location at any time in a journey. These maps let people discover vessel positions, their name, course, and speed so to avoid collisions. Vessel tracks are colored and users can zoom in to see the mobile ships in that area. Also, clicking on a placemark allows users to find a picture of the ship and know its speed, type, and destination.
  • THEMATIC MAPS: Thematic world maps are designed to show a specific theme or subject area connected with some sort of geographical distribution. These maps emphasize spatial variation and primarily portray physical, social, political, cultural, economic, sociological, agricultural, population density or other aspects of a city, state, region, nation or continent with different themes and colors.Four thematic world maps illustrated above depict four different themes of the world – the first one shows an index of the renewal sources of energy in the United States, the second image shows life expectancy rate in different countries of the world, population density of all countries are represented in the third image and the last map depicts the current status of human development index in the world.
  • HISTORICAL WORLD MAPS: The earliest known world maps date to classical antiquity, the oldest examples being world maps dating back from 5th to 6th centuries. World maps from the ancient past covered depictions of the world from the Iron Age to the Age of Discovery and the emergence of modern geography during the early modern period. These historical world maps provided information about philosophy, beliefs, culture, and rituals followed by people in the past, which contrast with modern cartography. These maps also provided an effective means for scientists to pass information to the generations to come.


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