Map design

In this session we will refine your skills in map design by applying the techniques you have learned in previous session to a ‘real world’ problem in archaeological cartography.


By the end of this session, you should:

  1. Demonstrate the ability to produce a publication-quality map with a given objective, target audience and design parameters
  2. Be able to critically reflect on the design choices and effectiveness of an archaeological map
  3. Be able to incorporate constructive criticism into your own map design




Today’s practical will consist of a problem set that you will work through in groups, based on real-world applications of cartography in archaeological research. In groups of four:

  1. Assign each member of your group one of the problems below
  2. Individually, produce a draft map according to the objectives, target audience, and design parameters given
  3. Reconvene as a group and discuss the design and effectivness of each others’ maps
    • Is the choice of ‘base layers’ appropriate to the objective of the map?
    • Do thematic elements make the best use of ‘data-ink’?
    • Does the map include all the elements and decorations expected, considering the target audience and parameters?
  4. Revise and improve your draft to based on the criticism you have received

Your portfolio entry for this practical should include:

  • Your draft map
  • Notes on the points of critique you received from the rest of your group, and what you did to address them
  • Your revised map

Problem 1: Thematic Map

Late Epipalaeolithic sites in the Levant

You have been asked to produce a distribution map of Late Epipalaeolithic (Natufian and Harifian) sites in the Levant, to be included in a research article on the subsistence economy of this period.

Objective: show the locations and regional context of the sites discussed in the article text

Target audience: readers of a specialist scientific journal, who may not be familiar with the region/period


  • The map must illustrate the location of sites in relation to major geographic features, e.g. the Dead Sea, the Jordan River
  • The map must give some indication of the regional topography
  • Readers must be able to distinguish sites which have been excavated from those that haven’t
  • Readers must be able to distinguish sites which have macro-archaeobotanical remains from those that don’t
  • The names of sites mentioned in the text must be labelled. These are:
    • Abu Hureyra
    • Hayonim Cave & Terrace
    • Jericho
    • El Khiam
    • Shubayqa 1
    • Wadi Hammeh 27
  • It must be possible to extract the rough geographic coordinates of sites from the map

Data (Problem 1)

Problem 2: Topographic Map

Hydrology of the Azraq basin

Prehistoric settlement in the Azraq basin, eastern Jordan, was strongly conditioned by the availability of water in the steppe/desert region. You have been asked to prepare a topographic map of the contemporary hydrology of the basin for a text giving a regional overview its prehistory.

Objective: illustrate the major topographic and hydrological features of the Azraq basin relevant to its prehistory

Target audience: prehistorians and environmental scientists familiar with the region


  • The map must include:
    • Regional topography
    • Annual precipitation
    • The extent of the Azraq basin
    • The basin’s major hydrological features (the Qa Azraq and Wadi Rajil)
  • The map should be in colour
  • Hydrological features should be labelled
  • The scale of the map must be indicated in kilometres

Data (Problem 2)