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This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. A map is a symbolic depiction emphasizing relationships between elements of some space, such as objects, regions, or themes. Many maps are static, fixed to paper or some other durable medium, while others are dynamic or interactive. Although the earliest maps known are of the heavens, geographic maps of territory have a very long tradition and exist from ancient times. The word «map» comes from the medieval Latin Mappa mundi, wherein mappa meant napkin or cloth and mundi the world. Thus, «map» became the shortened term referring to a two-dimensional representation of the surface of the world. Road maps are perhaps the most widely used maps today, and form a subset of navigational maps, which also include aeronautical and nautical charts, railroad network maps, and hiking and bicycling maps.

In addition to location information maps may also be used to portray contour lines indicating constant values of elevation, temperature, rainfall, etc. The Hereford Mappa Mundi from about 1300, Hereford Cathedral, England, is a classic «T-O» map with Jerusalem at centre, east toward the top, Europe the bottom left and Africa on the right. The orientation of a map is the relationship between the directions on the map and the corresponding compass directions in reality. The word «orient» is derived from Latin oriens, meaning east. Maps from non-Western traditions are oriented a variety of ways. Old maps of Edo show the Japanese imperial palace as the «top», but also at the centre, of the map.

Labels on the map are oriented in such a way that you cannot read them properly unless you put the imperial palace above your head. Medieval European T and O maps such as the Hereford Mappa Mundi were centred on Jerusalem with East at the top. Maps of cities bordering a sea are often conventionally oriented with the sea at the top. Route and channel maps have traditionally been oriented to the road or waterway they describe.

North would be towards or away from the centre of the map, respectively. Reversed maps, also known as Upside-Down maps or South-Up maps, reverse the North is up convention and have south at the top. Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion maps are based on a projection of the Earth’s sphere onto an icosahedron. The resulting triangular pieces may be arranged in any order or orientation. A ‘global view map’ of Europe, Western Asia and Africa. Many maps are drawn to a scale expressed as a ratio, such as 1:10,000, which means that 1 unit of measurement on the map corresponds to 10,000 of that same unit on the ground.