According to archeologists, a freshly unearthed 4000-year old, 2m by 1.5m slab may be the oldest three-dimensional map in Europe.
Called Saint-Bélec Slab, it is believed to date from the early Bronze Age, between 1900 BC and 1650 BC.
First uncovered in 1900, this slab was found again in a cellar in a castle in France in 2014. The patterns and markings engraved on the slab are a map of an area in western Brittany, making it the oldest 3D map of a known area in Europe.
The map, which has intricate carvings and motifs, was studied by researchers from the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap), the United Kingdom’s Bournemouth University, the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the University of Western Brittany using high-resolution 3D surveys and photogrammetry.
The “presence of repeated motifs joined by lines” on its surface suggested it depicted an area of Finistère, a study in the Bulletin of the French Prehistoric Society said. They also believe that the map also shows 3D representation of the River Odet valley, while several lines appear on it to depict the area’s river network.
“This is probably the oldest map of a territory that has been identified,” Dr Clément Nicolas from Bournemouth University, one of the study’s authors, told the BBC.
“There are several such maps carved in stone all over the world. Generally, they are just interpretations. But this is the first time a map has depicted an area on a specific scale.”
Dr Nicolas also explained the reason for the map to be drawn.
“It was probably a way to affirm the ownership of the territory by a small prince or king at the time,” he said.
“We tend to underestimate the geographical knowledge of past societies. This slab is important as it highlights this cartographical knowledge.”
Isn’t this discovery interesting? How ingenious were the people of the Bronze Age to have developed the skill of cartography! What do you think? Let us know your views in the comments section below.