Tag Archives: geography

MapFrappe Comparative Scale Maps

Vancouver Island, to Scale, off the Coast of Sumatra.

Space is important to archaeologists, but it can be really easy to have a distorted sense of how big the world is, and how big different parts are compared to each other.  One big reason for this globally is that common map projections tend to make more northerly and southerly places appear much larger.  But on a local scale, even knowing that a place is so many square kilometres compared to some other place is not always that illuminating.  It’s hard for a small human to get their head around big spaces, or abstract ones.

This all matters because what archaeologists study is the human scale of feet-on-ground, and it is easy to lose that when confronted with a top-down view, bird-in-air, which apart from anything else, is pretty much a point of view no human has ever occupied, at least until very recently.  It is pretty handy then to find an easy to use online tool called MapFrappe, which allows you to outline a geographic feature, then drag it to anywhere in the world – while preserving its map projection scale.

For example, Vancouver Island is a familiar feature to many NW Coast archaeologists.

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Spatial History Mapping Project

Emeryville Shell Mound, San Francisco, and sea level change. Source: Spatial History Project.

If you’re at all a map geek – and most archaeologists have that tendency – then you might enjoy flipping around Stanford’s Spatial History Mapping Project. This project is intended to further creative visual analysis and representation of historical events and phenomena.  Luckily for us, they apply their skills to some archaeological problems, such as the relationship between sea level change and shell mound development illustrated above:

Did rising sea levels force native people to raise their shellmounds to stay above the tides? The visualization suggests that no, mound building was unrelated to sea level rise.

You can see that particular page here.

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