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Kamenná deska znázorňuje oblast Finistère.

A surprising discovery: the oldest 3D map of the world dates back to the Bronze Age

Archaeologists have unearthed more than 4,000 years old stone slabs measuring 2 x 1.5 meters since 1900 during excavations at a prehistoric cemetery in Finistere in western Brittany. Then it was discovered by local archaeologist Paul de Chatelier. His collection was subsequently purchased by the National Museum of Archeology (MAN) in 1924, and by 2014 the painting had been lost.

It wasn’t until 2014 that scientists re-discovered it in the cellar of the castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye northwest of Paris. The painting, then known as the San Belek painting, may have been dated to the early Bronze Age, that is, from 1900 BC to 1650 BC.

After a thorough analysis of the signs and inscriptions, archaeologists discovered that it could be a map. “The presence of repeated motifs connected by lines on the surface of the stone indicates that this is the Finistere region of Brittany,” the researchers said in a study in the Journal of the French Society of Prehistory.

According to the scientists, the excavated depressions should be a three-dimensional representation of the Odette River valley, and then the other lines show the river networks and hills in the area. Subsequent geographic surveys revealed that the representation of the area on the panel is 80 percent accurate and captures the area of ​​a 29-kilometer section of the Odette River.

Oldest map of the territory

Dr Clement Nicholas of Bournemouth University, who was involved in the research, told the BBC: “This is probably the oldest map of a particular area that has ever been found.” According to him, there are only a few such maps carved in stone around the world. In general, these are just explanations.

“This is the first time that the map shows an area on a scale,” added Nicholas, adding that the map can be used to define a specific area. “It may have been a way of asserting the ownership of an area by the king at that time,” he said, adding that this was a display of political power in the early Bronze Age.

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“We tend to underestimate the geographic knowledge of our ancient ancestors, which is why this painting is important. This indicates that our ancestors knew of cartography,” Nicholas adds. It is believed that the tablet was used as one of the walls of the stone tomb, but the other parts have not been found.

To confirm their hypothesis, scholars compared this stone map with similar findings from prehistoric European and other ethnic groups, including the Tuareg and the Papuan. “Because it is most likely a mind map, some of the objects represented may be large, while their location may not be commensurate with the distances that separate them,” the researchers said in a study conducted by The Guardian.

According to them, the painting from Saint-Bélec depicts the territory of a powerful hierarchical political entity that firmly controlled the territory in the early Bronze Age. “The fact that they were placed in a cemetery ultimately could mean, according to the scholars, the end or rejection of the elites, many of which ruled society at the time,” archaeologists said.