The time when we illustrated maps by hand with a quill, Chinese ink and tracing paper is long gone. Today this discipline has advanced into the digital era and maps are made using a variety of tools drawing on technical and geomatic methods, combining IT and geographical representation.

Cross-referencing data

Computer-aided cartography is well established and now offers a complete range of vector graphics software allowing the making of both simple and more complex maps, thanks to superimposable layers. When there is a greater quantity of data to map out and correlate, a geographic information system (GIS) is preferable in order to cross-reference the geographical information and statistical data, while also giving them numerical importance.

Digital models of terrain

This type of tool increasingly integrates the third dimension in the form of digital models of terrain, which can now give us 3D raised relief maps. The acquisition of altimetric and bathymetric points, which is necessary for establishing the grid, largely requires new information technologies. Radar, sonar, scanners, lidar and satellite images, such as those from the SPOT satellite earth observation system, offer incomparable possibilities for remote sensing of space for analysis of geographical areas too large for traditional methods or which are densely covered by vegetation. Recent examples of this type of work are the mapping of Angkor, in Cambodia, thanks to remote sensing with lasers, and of archaeological remains from the First World War in the Argonne Forest.

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