From the earliest maps to the present, mapmakers have relied on a variety of methods, symbols, and designations to address the challenging task of illustrating the three-dimensional aspects of a location using a flat, two-dimensional map.
AACR2 recognizes many different ways of portraying relief, including
pictorial hachures landform drawing gradient tints rock drawing form lines contours spot heights soundings hypsometric tints bathymetric tints hill shading satellite imagery
The forms of relief used most often on early North Carolina maps are pictorial, hachures, and soundings. Beginning in the mid to late 19th-century, North Carolina mapmakers began to use additional methods for showing relief, including contours, spot heights, and hill shading. The examples below show illustrations of each method.
"Relief Shown Pictorially"
On many early maps of North Carolina and the southeast, topography is illustrated simply by drawings of mountains and hills. Early explorers were clearly aware that there was a large mountain chain several hundred miles to the west of the coast, but the maps they produced show that there was at the time very little additional information.
Detail from "A New and Accurate Map of the Province of North and South Carolina, Georgia, etc.," 1747. NC Archives call number MC.150.1747b. Detail from "Map of North and South Carolina and Georgia, Constructed from the Latest Authorities," 1827. NC Archives call number MC.150.1827f.
"Relief Shown by Hachures"
Hachures, defined as "short lines following the direction of maximum slope" (AACR2 Cartographic Materials, 2002) are probably the most common method for showing relief on historic maps of North Carolina. Hachures often designate specific mountains or hills, and are effective at showing variations in elevation, but they still do not convey as much information as numbered relief methods, such as contours and spot heights.