Mysterious 4,000-year-old ‘treasure map’ may reveal the ancient world

Mysterious 4,000-year-old ‘treasure map’ may reveal the ancient world

Archaeologists are hoping that an ancient map, which has remained largely unstudied for 4,000 years, can point them towards some of the hidden secrets of the ancient world.

The Bronze Age map, at first glance, is just a piece of rock engraved with mysterious marks. But it turns out that the so-called “Saint-Belec Slab” could lead archaeologists to the lost ruins in northwestern France, Agence France-Presse reported.

“This lithic map is important because for the first time we were able to show its cartographic content statistically,” said Clement Nicola of the CNRS Research Institute, who worked on the project. Newsweek. “Accurate 3D imaging of part of the terrain – the Odette Valley – and other rivers, especially the meanders of the Olen River, were compared to modern-day maps through grid analyses.”

Typically, archaeologists use technology such as radar equipment and aerial photography to make discoveries.

But this old map may be just as effective. The San Bellec tablet was declared the oldest map in Europe in 2021, and since then, archaeologists have been trying to decipher its markings, to guide them to other archaeological discoveries. It was discovered for the first time in 1900, but the historian who discovered it did not understand its importance, Agence France-Presse reported.

Map of the ancient bronze age
An image emerges of a Bronze Age map that may lead archaeologists to previously undiscovered discoveries 4,000 years ago.
INRAP

Then in 2014, Yvan Bailer, a professor at the University of Western Brittany, and Nicolas rediscovered the artifact, which had been stored in the museum, and began taking a closer look at its markings.

“There were a few engraved symbols that made immediate sense,” Byler told AFP.

So far, researchers have discovered that the map spans an area of ​​about 18 miles by 13 miles.

Archaeologists believe that the area covered by the map may have once been an ancient kingdom. The entire area will have to be surveyed and cross-referenced before further exploration can take place – a task that will take about 15 years to complete.

These areas include the Roodewalk Mountains, in the Brittany region of France. The researchers also deciphered the symbols of the rivers drawn on the tablets in the form of bumps and lines on the rock.

When they compared the map to a modern map, the result was an 80 percent match.

“At the moment, we only understand the shape of the landscape (rivers and mountains). The main parts of the pictorial symbols (ovals, circles, squares, marks) need to be deciphered,” Nicholas said. “Some of them may correspond to enclosed settlements, barrows with certain points of interest. The idea now is to use the map of Saint-Bélec in this way to find the locations shown. We will use all available aerial photographs and satellite images, as well as the upcoming LiDAR survey. Recognizing landmarks Archaeological artifacts that can be preserved underground or in highlands.

“We hope to conduct aerial acquisitions of hyper- and multi-spectral imagery to obtain high-resolution datasets in target areas to enhance site identification. Finally, we will carry out fieldwork to better characterize the layouts and material cultures of the suspected settlements, especially the enclosures, which may have been depicted on the San slab “Bilek, through pedestrian and geophysical surveys. At several sites whose shape or relative position may match the carved symbols, we will conduct planned test excavations. There are also small hollow areas of the map which may mark certain burial mounds.”

However, before exploring any additional sites, researchers are starting by looking at the site where the stela was originally found, which according to Byler, is one of the largest Bronze Age sites in Brittany.

Byler said searching this area first would allow them to “better contextualize the discovery” and give them “a way to date the painting.”

So far, they have found some additional parts that belong to the painting.

“Ideally, if we can identify some of the locations drawn, that will help better understand the purpose and chronology of this map,” Nicholas said. “If we can excavate some sites that match the symbols shown on the map, this will give us an indication of the date of the inscriptions and a more accurate context for why this map was carved. After that, it will be easier to decipher the map legend and understand the meaning of other symbols, such as brands.” “

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Updated 10/19/23, 10:38 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with comment from Clement Nicholas.