Documentary information about maps shows that they existed before our era: primitive sketches were found in Egyptians, Chinese, Canadians, Native Americans made on a variety of supports, starting from bone, tree bark, sand, wood, stones, etc. The content of these sketches refers to small areas and represents different elements of the natural environment, such as the hydrographic network, lakes, forests, caves.
The oldest map that arrived in Romania, scratched on a silver plate, is from Mesopotamia, dating from the 15th century. XIV-XV i.Cr.
The first actual maps appear in the ancient Greeks. The first Greek map was made by ANAXIMADRU from MILET and includes the known world of his time, surrounded by OKEANOS, in the hypothesis of the flat Earth.
The most remarkable cartographic results in antiquity were the construction of the first geographical globe by CRATES and the imagination of the first projection systems by HIPARH (2nd century BC) and PTOLEMUS (2nd century AD).
The Romans did not enrich in any way the theoretical basis of cartographic representations, even if they also drew up maps called itineraries, necessary in their wars of expansion. One such map is the Peutingerian Tabula.
In feudalism, the development of trade entails the drawing up of maps related to practical needs. Thus, sea maps were built by the Italians, known as portulane, which usually referred to the basin of a single sea.
The 16th century is characterized by a fruitful and valuable cartographic activity, the most important representatives of this period being MERCATOR and ORTELIUS (Dutch). Mercator published in 1578 a first atlas of geographical maps after the maps of Ptolemy, but reconstructed and corrected by him. When drawing up the maps, he uses the cartographic projection and proposes several projections, one of which is for navigation, which bears his name, being used even today.
Sec. The 17th century is known for the appearance of atlases which, in addition to the respective maps, also contained texts.
From the 18th century, it is worth mentioning the activity of drawing up maps on medium and large scales. The first topographic map is Cassini's map of France at a scale of 1: 86400.
In 1871 the first geography congress took place, where the problem of choosing the meridian of origin or the first meridian was raised, problems solved in 1884 at a special conference convened in Washington, when the meridian of the Greenwich observatory was chosen as the meridian of origin.
At the end of the 19th century (1891), at the Bern Congress, for the unification of national topographic maps into an international map, A. Penck's proposal to build a map of the globe at a scale of 1: 1,000,000 was adopted. In 1899 it was decided to draw up a bathymetric map of the Planetary Ocean at a scale of 1: 10,000,000 which appeared in 1904.
Different types of maps and atlases were made between the two world wars. The world-important cartographic work of this period is the Great Soviet Atlas of the World.
After the Second World War, the development of cartography is on the rise, it continues with the preparation of national atlases, topographic maps for the new states, with the appearance of polyglot dictionaries, with the organization of international cartography conferences, etc.
After the stages of "dimensional approximations, geometrization of geography" and "application of statistical methods in geography", the 1960s marked the beginning of the stage of computerization of cartography. This stage is identified with the beginning of geographic information systems (GIS), it being conditioned by the rapid improvement of computers. The first steps were marked by setting up databases, which could later be used by other beneficiaries.
A step forward in the computerization of cartography was the creation of electronic atlases, which can contain, in addition to the information of a traditional database, information under
graphic form (general maps, thematic maps, cartograms, diagram blocks, cartograms, profiles, etc.). Electronic atlases have the advantage of rapidly changing the information contained in graphical form from a present event or geographical phenomenon to a future one, meeting the attribute of "operational" and "functional".