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Finding maps 1: Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) Map Collection

A practical demonstration of how to search and download historical maps from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection.

Now we are going to be working with historical maps – learning where we can find them, and how we can work with them in QGIS. Several websites host large collections of scanned maps that can be downloaded for free, we are going to work with two of these.

The PCL Map Collection

The University of Texas at Austin has more than 250,000 maps in its PCL Map Collection. Many of these have been scanned and are available online. The dedicated website for the collection is no longer being updated, but it remains a fantastic resource for easily finding scanned maps.

PCL Map Collection website screenshot The PCL Map Collection website.

Maps are arranged regionally which makes them easy to browse and download.

  • 1) Navigate to the PCL Map Collection website.
  • 2) Click on your region of interest (e.g. Middle East).
  • 3) Scroll down and click on your country of interest, these are bold font to make finding them easier.

Country selection screenshot Click on your country of interest.

  • 4) Scroll through and see if there are any maps relevant to you.

Iraq maps screenshot Maps of Iraq.

  • 5) To open a map in your browser simply click the link.
  • 6) To download it right-click the image and select “Save image as” and save it into a folder on your computer.

Save a map screenshot Downloading a map from the PCL Map Collection.

Maps of interest to archaeologists can often be found in the “Historical Maps” section.

Historical maps section screenshot Many archaeologically interesting maps of Iraq are available in the “Historical Maps” section.

Some large series of maps will have an index map to help you find the sheets most relevant to your area of interest.

Iraq series example screenshot This large series of maps of Iraq and Iran has an index map.

Example series index map The Iraq and Iran series index map. Army Map Service, Series K501, index map, 1948.

All of the maps on the PCL Map Collection website are free to download.

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Advanced Archaeological Remote Sensing: Site Prospection, Landscape Archaeology and Heritage Protection in the Middle East and North Africa

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