Pre-AP World History
/ Name: ______
Date: ______Block: ____

Working with Maps

Maps are obviously essential when talking about history and geography. If you know how to read it, a map is so much more than pretty colors, shapes, and lines. Using the map of the Mongol Empire in 1294 CE on page 298 as an example, read about the important features of maps and answer the questions.

Assumptions. Map makers cannot tell you everything, or there would be no room left on the map for the map. Certain assumptions are made, and you know what happens when you assume…The map will never point out to you the difference between land and water. You will need to use context clues! In a color map, you can usually just look for big spots of blue, and that’s where the water will be. In black and white maps, you may need to trace the outline of things called ocean, sea, bay, or lake. You can also look for the outlines of mountains or the labels of cities, which are usually on land.

  1. The map also assumes that you know what the blue squiggly lines and small black dots are. What are they?

Legend (or key). The legend tells you how to read the symbols, lines, and colors on the map. On the Mongol Empire map, the legend is in the upper right-hand corner of the map.

  1. Based on the legend, how would you find the places that Marco Polo visited in China? Name two cities on Marco Polo’s route.
  1. Name one river that Genghis Khan’s successors crossed in their campaigns.
  1. The legend does not label everything on the map. What do you think the squiggly blue lines all over the map represent?

Scale. The scale relates the size of the map on the page to the area covered in the world; it gives the proportion between what you see and what it represents in the real world. On some maps, each inch will represent a mile; on other maps, an inch may represent several hundred miles. The scale on this map is near the lower left-hand corner.

  1. About how far apart are Lhasa and Pagan?
  1. Khartoum was the Mongol capital. Approximately how many kilometers from home was Genghis Khan’s furthest campaign?

Compass. The map compass indicates the direction of north on the map. Most maps are oriented with north pointing up, as we are used to. Some maps, like the Mongol Empire map, have north at an angle. The compass on this map is just above the scale.

  1. What direction would you travel from India to Vietnam?
  1. Compare the Mongol Empire map and the big map of the world. Where is Africa in relation to China?

Latitude and longitude. Most maps will show lines of longitude and latitude. These lines are faded blue on the Mongol Empire map. The box of Common Geographic Terms explains the purpose of these lines. Remember that the world is not flat! Two-dimensional maps distort the surface of the Earth, and lines that appear straight may be curved. You must follow latitude and longitude lines to locate the true position of places on the map.

  1. Which city is furthest north: Samarkand, Kabul, or Kaifeng?
  1. Beijing is at about what latitude and longitude?