In its current form, archaeology has gradually moved from being the study of objects and sites to the study of spaces shaped by man. As a tool for representation, research, management and even governance, cartography allows us to work on several levels, while linking them with overlapping and complementary analysis.
Three types of map are usually produced in archaeology, which is spatial in nature as much as in reason.
Inventory maps are used to show a wide range of data in a determined space. Analytical maps can have qualitative or quantitative significance, or both, and make use of graphic symbols. Finally, there are also thematic maps, which superpose several analytical maps in the context of specific themes.
While recognising the quality of archaeological maps, their limits should not be forgotten. By their very essence, they are subjective, as the data being presented has been selected. They can therefore be as misleading as they are informative if the premises of the selection are not carefully defined. Archaeological maps also find themselves part of the reoccurring debate about the fundamental nature of cartography: is cartography about knowledge or gaps in knowledge?
This particularly comes into question when cartography is used as a tool for managing archaeological heritage. Responsible for providing the state with the necessary information for it to accomplish its missions and make decisions, maps are subject to particular care when they become predictive, even opposable.