All too often people flip through history texts and atlases in school or at the library, and when it comes to pages with maps, the focus is on political boundaries, geographic formations, or environmental differences. These are all, of course, great uses for maps. However, maps can also be used to represent mankind on planet Earth. People are as much a part of the planet as the oceans, mountains, and forests. As such, it is possible to use maps to indicate the spread of humanity over time or the divisions caused by economic inequality.
Below, you’ll find two examples of maps used to highlight people on the planet, rather than national borders or mountain ranges. In one map, the income inequality of the world is starkly depicted with dots representing people on the planet, while the other tracks the evolution of mankind as humans migrated out of Africa to populate the planet.
How Humans Spread Across the World
Most scientists agree that mankind evolved from less sophisticated creatures beginning about 3.2 million years ago, with much of this process taking place on the African continent. However, it wasn’t until roughly 60,000 years ago that humans began to migrate out of Africa in waves to populate the farthest reaches of the globe.
The map tracks multiple routes taken by human beings as they migrated out of Africa. Included on the map are date marks, such as 65k, 50k, and 15k, noting the number of years ago that mankind is believed to have arrived in certain places. Across the African continent, the map shows evidence of the existence of modern Homo sapiens, with migration starting roughly 65,000 years ago.
In the first wave, humans moved out of Africa and onto the Arabian Peninsula 60,000 years ago. Further waves of migration resulted in humans populating continental Europe 40,000 years ago, the Indian Subcontinent, Asia, and Australia 50,000 years ago, and the Americas beginning around 16,000 years ago.
The map also shows solid lines with known routes of migration, dotted lines with possible (though contested) routes of migration, and a shaded arrow denoted the flow of human genomes around the globe.
Income Inequality on Planet Earth
The world has always been a place of haves and have not’s. Today, there is no better way to see that then with a map charting the income inequality of not just states and cities, but global populations. A map compiled using information from the World Bank shows massive clusters of dots representing people from around the globe.
Each map is shaded in two ways. First, the brightness of each dot indicates the population density of a particular region. The brighter a dot is, the more people there are living in that specific area. Second, the color of a dot denotes the wealth of the individuals in that area. For example, blue dots are the richest, while yellow dots are the poorest.
Most people can guess the income inequality of the world, with Western nations possessing immense wealth while the people of Africa and most of Asia struggle with lower income. On the map, the United States, Western Europe, and Australia have many bright-blue dots. Meanwhile, Africa is dominated on its Atlantic Coast and interior regions by yellow dots, with South Africa standing out with its purple dots (Upper-middle income levels).
The world can be viewed in many ways with the help of a map. While maps are a great tool for learning about the Great Lakes, the location of the world’s longest rivers, and the position of its largest mountain ranges, it is also possible to learn something about human society and history with the help of maps.