Convert a list of historic places into a map
Prepare the table
To convert a list of locations into points on a map, the list first needs to be reformatted as a table, for example as an .xlsx file, .csv file, or Google Sheets document. The work of copying and pasting the content from Wikipedia into a Microsoft Excel table has already been done for you. However, before you import the table into ArcGIS, you'll make some improvements to its formatting to ensure that the correct locations are found.
- Download AncientCities.xlsx.
- Find the downloaded file and double-click it to open it in Microsoft Excel.
- Open the table and review the data.
Some of the entries in the Name column have their historical names in parentheses.
To convert locations on a table into map coordinates, the geocoding software uses place-names in the table to match its database of places and addresses through a process called matching. The entries that include historical names in parentheses might make location matching difficult. You'll separate the historical names into their own column to help ensure that the geocoding process is smooth and finds the correct locations.
- Right-click the header for column B and click Insert.
A new empty column (named B) appears.
- In column B, row 1, type Historical name.
- In column B, row 5, type Hippo Regius.
- In column A, row 5, remove the text (as Hippo Regius) so the cell contains only the text Annaba.
- Edit the following place-names in the same way so all of the names in parentheses are moved into the Historical name column:
- Luxor/Wasat, better known by its Greek name Thebes
Some of the place-names in this table are relevant to your class and some are not. There may also be some cities that are missing from the list that you'd like to include. Since Wikipedia is an unreliable source, you'll need to evaluate this data for errors as well as relevancy.
- Make any further edits to the table that you feel are appropriate, such as adding or removing rows.
- On the ribbon, click Save and click Save As. Name the new file AncientCities, followed by your initials and click Save.
- Close Excel.
Your list is now formatted as a table and is ready to be geocoded.
Add the table to ArcGIS Online
Now that you have a table of locations, you can use ArcGIS Online to convert it into geospatial data. The geocoding process will ask you a series of questions about your data and then try to match each row in the table to the correct location on earth. You'll have a chance later to review the matches and fix any errors.
- Sign in to your ArcGIS organizational account.
If you don't have an organizational account, you can sign up for an ArcGIS free trial.
- If necessary, click the Content tab.
On the content page, you can access, organize, browse, search, and work with content on the website. You can also add files from your device to create a new item in ArcGIS Online. For this lesson, you will create a hosted feature layer from the Excel document you prepared.
- Click New item.
- In the New item window, click Your device and choose the edited version of AncientCities.xlsx.
The New item page appears. The table will be added to your ArcGIS Online account in its native, or original, format: a Microsoft Excel document. But you can additionally choose to add it as a hosted feature layer. This is necessary to turn the table into points on a map.
A feature layer is a geospatial dataset that can be used in maps across the ArcGIS system. The term hosted means that the data is stored in your account.
- Choose Add AncientCities.xlsx and create a hosted feature layer or table.
- Click Next.
Because you're creating a new feature layer, you are given a chance to review the fields. In ArcGIS, columns are called fields. You can't change the field names from what was present in the Excel table, but you can change their display names. You'll remove the underscores so they are easier to read.
- Under Display name, replace all the underscores with spaces.
The Type for each field is set to String, which means the data is stored as text.
To learn more about field types, see Add or delete a field.
- Click Next.
- On the Location settings page, confirm Addresses or place names is selected.
- Expand Advanced location settings. For Locator, confirm ArcGIS World Geocoding Service is selected.
By default, ArcGIS Online uses ArcGIS World Geocoding Service to find addresses, cities, landmarks, business names, and postal codes in more than 100 countries around the world. In this lesson, you will use the ArcGIS World Geocoding Service to create points based on the place information in your Excel document.
- For Location fields, choose Location information is in multiple fields.
The list of Location types expands.
- For Address or Place, choose Name. For Country, choose Present region.
Using the ArcGIS World Geocoding Service will consume credits. Credits are the currency used across ArcGIS Online. They are consumed during specific transactions, such as performing analytics, storing features, and geocoding. The cost is 40 credits per 1,000 geocodes. At the bottom of the New item window, the Credit estimate section will show you how many credits it will cost to geocode the locations in your Excel document. You can expect to use at least 1 credit in this lesson but you may consume more as you rematch locations.
To learn how many remaining credits are in your ArcGIS Online account, at the top of the page, click on your username, click My settings. On the My settings page, click Credits to see how many remaining credits are in your account.
- Click Next.
On the next page, you will provide the title and other metadata for the new hosted feature layer.
- For Title, type Ancient cities in Africa, followed by your initials.
You cannot create two layers in an ArcGIS organization with the same name. Adding your initials to a layer name ensures that other people in your organization can also complete this lesson. Once a layer has been created, you can rename it in the map to remove your initials, which will not affect the name of the underlying data layer.
- For Tags, type the name of your class, Ancient History.
This will help you find the data later if you have many layers and maps for different classes. You'll also include a link to the original data source so your students will know where the information came from.
- For Summary, type Some of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Africa. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oldest_continuously_inhabited_cities.
- Click Save.
The item page of the new layer Ancient cities in Africa appears. A Review Locations pop-up window also appears.
The window states that 36 of 37 locations were matched. This means when the geocoding process converted the list of places to an x,y coordinate, it was able to match 36 of the 37 locations to a known city name. There is one location where a match was not found. Any time you geocode, it is important to reviewed both unmatched and matched locations to confirm the geocoding process accurately matched locations to the desired places in your list.
Next, you'll review the locations.
Review unmatched locations
Of your 37 locations, 36 were matched. You'll begin the review process to properly locate the one unmatched location and to confirm that the other locations were matched correctly.
The ArcGIS World Geocoding Service is constantly being updated with new addresses, so your unmatched number may be different.
- In the Review Locations window, click Yes.
If you want to continue rematching locations at a later time, from the Ancient cities in Africa item page, click the arrow next to Open in Map Viewer and choose Open in Map Viewer Classic. When the layer opens in Map Viewer Classic, on the Contents pane, for the Ancient cities in Africa layer, click the More Options button and choose Review Locations.
A map appears, with markers scattered around Africa. Your table has already been converted into a map.
Below the map, one unmatched location is listed: Zeila/Avalites in Somalia.
Zeila/Avalites does not appear on the map yet because the map does not have data to indicate where it should be located. You're not familiar with this place, so you'll go back to your original data source to see whether you can learn more.
- Go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeila.
The Wikipedia page shows a map with the town of Zeila located on the coast in the far west of Somaliland. Somaliland is internationally considered to be part of Somalia.
- In ArcGIS Online, zoom to eastern Africa, to the northwest part of Somalia, close to Djibouti.
There are some roads leading to the peninsula where you expect to find the town of Zeila, but there is no label.
It's possible that you can find different information on the OpenStreetMap basemap. This map, like Wikipedia, is created from crowdsourced data.
A basemap provides a background of geographical context for the content you want to display on a map. You can change the basemap using the basemap gallery which includes a variety of choices, including topography, imagery, and streets.
- On the ribbon, click the Basemap button and choose OpenStreetMap.
The basemap updates and a label for Zeylac appears. Zeylac is similar to the Somali spelling of Saylac that you saw on the Wikipedia page for Zeila. It looks like this is probably the correct location.
- Beneath the map, click the Zeila/Avalites row to select it. On the map, click the Zaylac label.
A marker symbol and a pop-up window appear.
- In the pop-up, click Match.
The marker turns green to indicate that it is a matched location.
Review matched locations
The ArcGIS World Geocoding Service found location matches for the other 36 places. You could accept these matches and assume that they are correct, however, it's good practice to review them first. This dataset in particular merits a review of the location matches. There may be other cities, such as Zeila, which have alternate spellings, or which have dwindled in importance since ancient times. These factors can make accurate location matching difficult.
If you want to continue reviewing locations later, point to the layer in the Contents pane. Click the More Options button and click Review Locations.
- Beneath the map, click the Matched tab. In the table, click the first row (Agadez).
The map zooms to Niger and shows a few markers. The green marker is the matched location. Any blue markers are suggested locations, which are considered less likely than the green one.
- Zoom to the green marker.
It appears to be in the correct location, so you will not change it.
- Click the next row (Aksum).
Of the three suggested locations, the blue marker in the middle of the city looks best.
- Click the blue marker in the middle of the city, and in the pop-up, click Match.
The marker turns from blue to green to indicate that it is the matched location.
- Click the row for Alexandria.
The map zooms to northern Egypt. There are many blue suggested markers and all of the labels are in Arabic. If you don't read Arabic and are unfamiliar with this region, it might be difficult to confirm that it's the correct location, so you'll change the basemap again.
- Switch the basemap to Imagery Hybrid.
Now you can see that the green matched location is correctly located in the city of Alexandria.
- Scroll through the matched table and click the row for Sofala. Zoom out until you can see several markers on the map.
None of the markers seem right. You know that Sofala was once a prominent seaport, so you were expecting it to be located on the coast.
- Visit the Wikipedia page for Sofala: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sofala.
It says that Sofala is presently known as Nova Sofala.
- In ArcGIS Online, in the Matched table, double-click Sofala and type Nova Sofala to rename it.
- Press Enter.
A new blue marker appears on the map at the mouth of a river.
- Zoom in to examine the location on the imagery basemap.
There are a few houses in the area, but it is not a city. Some further research will be needed before you can be sure of this location.
- Continue to read the Sofala Wikipedia page.
It provides some more information about its location:
The shifting sands and boundaries of the Buzi estuary have since allowed the sea to reclaim much of old Sofala…Sofala lost its remaining commercial preeminence once Beira was established 32 kilometres (20 mi) to the north in 1890.
- Zoom out until you can see the label for Beira to the north.
You'll check whether Beira is the correct distance from the suggested location.
- On the ribbon, click Measure.
- Click the Distance button and choose Kilometers or Miles.
- On the map, click the blue marker for the suggested location, then click Beira.
The distance shown is roughly 35–39 kilometers, which is close to the distance described in Wikipedia. This looks like the correct location.
- Close the Measure window.
- Click the blue marker. In the pop-up window that appears, click Match.
You'll continue to review the remaining locations.
- Click each row in the Matched table and confirm that it was correctly matched or update it to a new location.
- When you are satisfied that you have an accurate dataset, at the bottom of the Review Locations pane, click Done Reviewing.
Style and save the map
You have converted a list of place-names into geographic data. Next, you'll label the locations and save a map that you can share with your students.
The Contents pane displays a list of the layers in the map and is where you can configure each layer’s style, appearance, and add labels. Labels are short pieces of text that describe features in a layer and help your audience understand the symbols they see on your map. The text for a label is usually based on an attribute in the layer, such as the Name attribute.
- In the Contents pane, point to Ancient cities in Africa and click the More options button. Click Create Labels.
Labels appear on the map.
- In the Label Features pane, for Text, choose Name.
- Click OK.
You'll also change the basemap to match the other maps you've created for this class.
- Change the basemap to Modern Antique Map.
If Modern Antique Map is not listed in the basemap list, click Add and click Browse Living Atlas Layers. Search for the Modern Antique vector tile layer and add it to your map.
The contents of the basemap list are set by your organization's administrator.
- On the map, click one of the point symbols to view its pop-up.
The pop-up shows information from the table.
- Scroll to the bottom of the pop-up and click the More info link.
The Wikipedia page for the location appears.
- Close Wikipedia and close the pop-up.
- Zoom out until you can see all of Africa.
- On the ribbon, click Save and choose Save.
- In the Save Map window, for Title, type Ancient Cities in Africa.
- For Tags, type Ancient History. For Summary, type Some of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Africa. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oldest_continuously_inhabited_cities.
- Click Save Map.
Edit the data
If you notice an error or a mistake in your data after you finish reviewing locations, it can still be fixed. You'll edit the table to fix a few errors that you noticed in the place-names.
- Zoom to the Gulf of Aden, between Yemen and Somalia.
Here there are two labels with slashes: Zeila/Avalites and Berbera/Malao.
When you researched Zeila earlier, you read that Avalites is its ancient name. Some more research tells you that Berbera is the current place-name, while Malao is the historical name. You'll edit the data to correct these place-names.
- In the Contents pane, point to Ancient cities in Africa and click the More options button. Choose Show Item Details.
The item page for the feature layer appears in a new tab.
Each item in ArcGIS Online includes an item page with a variety of information, actions, options, and settings organized by tab: Overview, Data, Visualization, Usage, and Settings. On the Data tab, you can edit a feature layer's attribute table and the data in the table.
- On the ribbon, click the Data tab.
Now you can see a table view of the data. Because you created and own this layer, you automatically have editing privileges.
- Scroll down to the Berbera/Malao row. Double-click the text in the Name column and delete the text /Malao.
- Make the following edits to the table:
Former name Name Historical name
- When you're done editing the table, close the item page tab and return to the map.
- On the map, click the browser's refresh button.
The map reappears. Now the labels and pop-ups show the correct information.
The map of ancient cities in Africa is ready to share with your students. You converted a list of place-names into a geospatial dataset and a map.
You edited a table so it would have more consistent formatting, geocoded the table, and reviewed and corrected the resulting location matches. You researched place-names and used basemaps and measuring tools to find the right locations. Now your students can use the map you've made to better explore and understand the places they'll be learning about in class.
Now that you've made a map, the next step is to share it. If you want to share your map in an interactive form so people can zoom and access the pop-ups, try the lesson Create an app. If you want to share this map as a static image that you can print, try the lesson Convert a web map into a print map.
You can find more lessons in the Learn ArcGIS Lesson Gallery.