Quantifying the completeness of and correspondence between two historical maps: A case study from nineteenth-century Palestine

Gad Schaffer*, Mor Peer, Noam Levin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Reconstructing past landscapes from historical maps requires quantifying the accuracy and completeness of these sources. The accuracy and completeness of two historical maps of the same period covering the same area in Israel were examined: the 1:63,360 British Palestine Exploration Fund map (1871-1877) and the 1:100,000 French Levés en Galilée (LG) map (1870). These maps cover the mountainous area of the Galilee (northern Israel), a region with significant natural and topographical diversity, and a long history of human presence. Land-cover features from both maps, as well as the contours drawn on the LG map, were digitized. The overall correspondence between land-cover features shown on both maps was 59% and we found that the geo-referencing method employed (transformation type and source of control points) did not significantly affect these correspondence measures. Both maps show that in the 1870s, 35% of the Galilee was covered by Mediterranean maquis, with less than 8% of the area used for permanent agricultural cropland (e.g., plantations). This article presents how the reliability of the maps was assessed by using two spatial historical sources, and how landcover classes that were mapped with lower certainty and completeness are identified. Some of the causes that led to observed differences between the maps, including mapping scale, time of year, and the interests of the surveyors, are also identified.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)154-175
Number of pages22
JournalCartography and Geographic Information Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Cartography and Geographic Information Society.


  • Accuracy
  • Completeness
  • GIS
  • Geo-referencing
  • Historical maps


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