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Mapping as a Cultural Universal

  • David Stea
  • James M. Blaut
  • Jennifer Stephens
Part of the GeoJournal Library book series (GEJL, volume 32)

Abstract

This chapter discusses the hypothesis that mapping behavior, the making of map like models, is a cultural universal, an important component of ecological behavior. The essay presents a theoretical framework for the hypothesis and discusses three categories of evidence developmental, prehistoric, and cross-cultural — which support the hypothesis. Humans must visualize, analyze, describe, and communicate the nature of large environments perceived atomistically, and therefore they create material representations depicting environments as if seen as a whole, from overhead. The result is an organized sign system with certain linguistic properties, including two syntactic transformations (rotation/projection and scale reduction), and the semantic representation of landscape features as iconic or abstract signs. This concept of the map yields useful criteria for the identification and study of maps in culture, history, and behavior. Many examples of prehistoric imagery, mostly parietal, extending to periods earlier than the Neolithic (of both geographical hemispheres), appear map-like, giving evidence of rotated, scale-reduced, and abstracted depiction of the environment and suggesting that mapping may have represented a form of adaptive behavior for modern humans. In a few cases, which are discussed, the representation depicts a real local landscape. Ethnographic studies, while in general not concerned with mapping, have provided evidence that mapping activity occurs in many contemporary cultures. Studies of the behavior of very young children, finally, indicate that mapping abilities appear much earlier than generally supposed, and seem to play an important role in early development.1

Keywords

Mapping Behavior American Geographer Mapping Ability Contemporary Culture Ecological Behavior 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Stea
    • 1
  • James M. Blaut
    • 2
  • Jennifer Stephens
    • 3
  1. 1.Centra Internacional para la Cultura y el Ambiente and Mount Holyoke CollegeUniversidad Internacional de MéxicoMexico
  2. 2.University of Illinois at ChicagoUSA
  3. 3.University of Illinois at ChicagoUSA

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