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An overview of the content of each section is set out below. The diagram and the information which follows it will assist teachers to plan how to use the unit in the class setting. It will also assist in the assessment of learning. The outline of each section includes some suggestions for teaching about maps in the past.

1. Introduction to the history of maps

  • What are maps?
  • Why use maps?
  • Map Facts
  • Early maps-written on clay, stone, vellum and silk. Early maps used by rulers, abbeys, armies and estates.

2. History of Maps

  • The ancient Greeks; Ptolemy
  • Medieval maps
  • Maps of the Renaissance and Age of Exploration (Maps in the 15th and 16th centuries)

3. Types of Maps

  • Physical maps and political maps
  • Examples from plantation maps of Laois
  • Maps of the Down Survey and Ordnance Survey

4. Map Developments in Ireland over the centuries

  • Ptolemy
  • Maps of the 16th,17th centuries - Tudor maps
  • How maps were drawn from areas of interest to England
  • Sligo map and depiction of wrecks of the Spanish Armada
  • Donegal 1778 and 1912
  • Maps of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries
  • Ordnance survey maps
  • Map games; map timeline

5. Dublin in Maps

  • Maps of the 17th and 18th century are shown and activities are based on these. Children see miles and furlongs as the distances on such maps.

6. Local Maps: Mapping Ireland

7. Where to find maps

  • Modern maps
  • Historic maps
  • Gallery of maps

8. Maps of the Eighteenth Nineteenth, and Twentieth Centuries

  • Aerial photography
  • Modern developments - satellite maps

Suggested Activities


The teacher can pose some of the following questions:

  • What did people use to make maps on in the past?
  • Were maps always the same as they are now?
  • Have any old maps survived from the past and if so what do children think that these maps showed on them?

1. If the school has a data projector the teacher could shown some of the older maps to the children. They could look at an ancient map or the 1580's map of Munster (both found in Section 2 History of maps). Children can comment on what was depicted and what symbols were used then. They can list some of the similarities and differences which they notice between these old maps and a more modern map.

Can maps tell us where shipwrecks are? Show children the 16th century hand-drawn map of Sligo which depicts the wrecks of the Spanish Armada.

2. Show children examples form the Gallery of Maps in the Find out More section. Explain to children that maps and globes are valuable evidence of what people knew about their world in the past. Explain that by looking at maps they will find what symbols people used. They will also see whether the maps were accurate or not.

3. Generate interest in the unit: Explain that they will have some activities to do.

Show children Irish Map Games within section 4 :

  • Activity 1- Act as a map maker of the past! Show children that they will be challenged to draw a coastline using towns as the basis for the coastline. Children get to see how difficult it was to draw accurate maps with only limited information.
  • Activity 2: Make a map timeline. Demonstrate how they will be asked to drag and drop maps to sort the maps according to age and accuracy.