Time.news – At the center there is a trapezoidal design, a horizontal and a vertical axis. And, in the quadrants, an uneven flow of lines, straight or curved, squares, circles, ovals that intertwine to form a complex network and with one goal: to guide the reader, direct and, above all, indicate sovereignty over a given territory.
It is perhaps the oldest map ever found in Europe, dating back over 4,000 years according to those who discovered it, the one engraved on a shale funeral slab at Saint-Belec in the department of Finisterre in Brittany, is the subject of studies by‘French Preventive Archaeological Research Institute (Inrap), Bournemouth University and the University of Western Brittany.
The funerary slab was first discovered in 1900 by the archaeologist Paul du Chatellier, who however did not understand what was ‘written’ on it. The slab, broken, used several times, including over a period of time between 1900 and 1640 BC, was transferred by Chatellier himself to his villa in Chateau de Kernuz, which over the years would become a private museum.
The archaeologist’s collection was then acquired by the National Antiquities Museum in Saint-German en Laye, but until 2014 no one had cared about the value of the slab, which had been left to its fate in the basement of the castle where the museum is located. . Only in 2017 did the researchers begin to look more closely at the engravings, to realize that those that came out of the find were not scribbles but real cartographic indications of the territories of a Bronze Age principality. gray-blue color, 2.20 meters long, 1.53 wide and 16 centimeters thick.
Starting from that year, the analyzes continued, through photogrammetric coverage and high-resolution 3D surveys, to record the surface topography of the slab and analyze its morphology, technology and chronology of the engravings. “The presence of motifs joined by lines and repeated – explains the Archaeological Institute on its site – suggests that it is a cartographic map”. There are three elements, in particular, that lead to this belief: “A homogeneous composition with engravings identical in technique and style, a repetition of motifs and a spatial relationship between the motifs themselves, that is a network of lines”, underlines the Irnap, who compared the “map” with other similar drawings from the prehistoric prehistory of Europe and other peoples, such as the Tuareg or Australian aborigines.
The map, the researchers explain, could refer to an area of 30 km by 21 in the Odet Valley. “Some lines indicate the network of the river”, adds Irnap, which has “tested the similarity between the engravings and the elements of the landscape through a series of statistical analyzes”. A georeferencing of the drawing was then carried out.
The political entity was at the center of three river sources (the Odet, the Isles and the Ster Laer). “Since this is probably a mental map – specifies the study – some of the elements represented could be oversized, while their positioning is not necessarily proportional to the distances that separate them”. The socio-historical context is that of culture of the “Armorican mound”, typical of Brittany and Normandy, which in the burial of high-ranking warriors “testifies to a strong social hierarchy and undoubtedly a strict control of the economy”.
“The slab of Saint-Belec – continue the archaeologists – represents the space of a highly hierarchical political entity that strictly controlled a territory in the early Bronze Age, and its breakup may have indicated condemnation and desecration. Burial is an iconoclastic act, therefore, may have marked the end or the rejection of the elites who exercised their power over society for several centuries during the early Bronze Age “.
If Chatellier did not fully understand the engravings, he did not give up offering his colleagues the opportunity to understand. Thus, it was on the basis of a document published by the colleague years before the prehistoric archaeologist Jacques Briard was the first to affirm an “analogy” between the map discovered in these days and the ‘Bedolina map’, which is actually a rock engraving discovered in Val Camonica. This, dating back to the Iron Age, is actually a topographical representation in which fields and paths are depicted along with hunting scenes.