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The oldest map found in Europe was hidden in Finistère!

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The Breton prehistorian Paul du Châtellier unearthed an imposing relief slab in 1900. This was kept in his personal museum until his death, then was lost. Recently, researchers have found, identified and studied it. According to them, it is the oldest card ever to be found in Europe.

A huge slab in a grave

Paul du Châtellier (1833-1911) was a renowned prehistorian and president of the Archaeological Society of Finistère. In 1900, he unearthed a 1.5 ton shale block in Leuhan (Finistère). It was a very imposing engraved slab, buried in the mound of Saint-Bélec, an enormous pile of earth (tumulus) 40 m in diameter and 2 m high. However, this tumulus covered a burial dating from the early Bronze Age, that is to say between 1900 and 1650 BC. J.-C. The relic, 2.2 m long and 1.53 m wide, was stored in the personal museum of Paul du Châtellier until his death in 1911. About ten years later, the children of the deceased sell his collection and the slab is lost.

As theNational Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) in a publication of April 6, 2021, several researchers, including archaeologists Yvan Pailler and Clément Nicolas found the slab in 2014. In order to achieve this, they carried out a careful examination of the archives. They finally found it in a cellar of the castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (Yvelines), the latter housing the National Archeology Museum.

Credit: Inrap

A cartographic representation.

Archaeologists recently published their work in the Bulletin of the French Prehistoric Society. They explain that the relief slab has lines, points and circles. For experts, this is a very coherent whole. Patterns are repeated and are linked together by lines to form a network. The slab is undoubtedly a card or rather, a cartographic representation. But now, the map is broken and the archaeologists do not know if this break was voluntary or not.

Despite the fact that several pieces are missing, the document contains enough elements suggesting a representation of the environment around the tomb. For example, a triangle and a rectangle appear on the map. However, the Odet valley forms a triangle and the Landugal massif forms a rectangle. If the similarities are indeed the object of an accumulation, researchers are still wary of their own gaze.

They therefore called on the geomatics specialist Julie Pierson. After several calculations, she confirms their analysis. According to her, the lines and other points actually refer to the environment of Leuhan. However, the legend is missing. And without it, it is impossible to be 100% certain of the nature of the representation. In any case, at the height of its almost 4000 years, this card is fine. oldest in Europe never found! Nevertheless, a question remains: why was it kept in a tomb?



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