Excavated in France in 1900 and forgotten for more than a century, a new analysis reveals that an ornate stone slab from the Bronze Age (2150-1600 BC) is actually the oldest known map of Europe .
Some researchers refer to this type of discovery as a "Sleeping Beauty" since, although the stone was found decades ago, only until today its true history comes to light.
The broken slab was reused in the Saint-Bélec burial towards the end of the Bronze Age (1900-1640 BC). At that time, the slab formed one of the walls of a stone cist, a small coffin-shaped stone box that was used to contain the bodies of the dead. Its engraved face was turned into the tomb, but its ends were hidden.
The slab was moved to a private museum in 1900 before the collection was acquired by the Museum of National Antiquities in 1924.
Now researchers from the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap), Bournemouth University, the CNRS, and the University of Western Britain have examined the carved slab, finding that the slab has many of the elements expected in a prehistoric map, including motifs. repeated linked by lines to give the design of a map.
Des chercheurs de l’Inrap @bournemouthuni @CNRS et @UBO UnivBrest viennent de mettre en évidence la plus ancienne carte en Europe, dating de l’âge du Bronze ancien. La recherche porte sur la dalle gravée de Saint-Bélec (Leuhan, Finistère) and paraît dans the bulletin of @SPFInfos . pic.twitter.com/ZTbSDDUF2C
– Inrap (@Inrap) April 6, 2021
An examination of the etched surface shows that the topography of the slab was intended to be 3D shaped to represent the Odet River valley, and several lines appear to represent the river network. The territory represented in the slab seems to relate to an area of about 30 by 21 kilometers, along the course of the Odet River.