Modern archaeologists rediscovered the mysterious stone slab of Saint-Bélec after it remained hidden for about 100 years in an ancient castle in France.
Recent studies, conducted by researcher Clément Nicolas of Bournemouth University in the U.K., found that the stone’s engravings could be an exceptional testimony to the first map of remote Europe.
“This is probably the oldest map of a territory that has been identified,” said Nicolas, the lead author of the study, according to Science Alert on April 7.
Nicholas added: “There are several such maps carved in stone around the world. Generally, they are just interpretations. But this is the first time a map has depicted an area on a specific scale.”
Nearly four meters long, the stone was found in 1900 by French prehistorian Paul du Chatellier during excavations in an ancient burial mound in Leuhan, in the Brittany region of northwestern France.
The monument became part of his private collection. After his death, his descendants sold it to the French National Archaeology Museum, which forgot it for almost 100 years, stored in a niche the moat of a castle.
Nicolas and his international team applied current technologies to analyze the slab, including high-resolution 3D topography, to study the stone’s morphology and possible dating.
The researchers theorize that the burial mound in which it was found dates back to the Early Bronze Age, between 1900 and 1640 B.C., but the stone’s diagramming could date back centuries.
“A key point is that the engravers appear to have modified the original surface relief of the slab to create the desired three-dimensional shape that compares to the topography of the surrounding landscape,” wrote researchers.
They also believe that the carvers marked to scale a region that could be about 30 km long and 21 km wide, with its corresponding river slopes.
Likewise, they postulate an objective of this laborious work, a type of territorial certification important for its ruler.
While the investigations provide more details, the enigmatic monument will also be considered as an Oopart, which is the acronym for out of place artifact.