4,000-year-old Burial Slab a 3D Map: Archaeologists

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April 8, 2021

A Bronze Age slab hidden away for decades is one of the world's oldest 3D maps, scientists say.

Saint-Belec Slab

The 5-foot-by-6.5-foot rock first came to light in 1900, during excavations of a 4,000-year-old burial ground in western Brittany, in the Finist#&233;re area, in northwest France. Leading those excavations was Paul du Ch#&226;tellier, a local archaeologist, who found the slab in the walls of a tomb. The Muse#&233; des Antiquit#&233;s nationales took charge of the slab in 1924 and tucked it away in storage, where it sat for nearly a century. At some point, someone moved the slab to a spot deep beneath a chateau at Germain-en-Laye, where archaeologists rediscovered it in 2014.

In recent years, a team of scientists from Bournemouth University, the CNRS, the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research, and the Universit#&223; de Bretagne Occidentale have studied the slab in cutting-edge detail, using photogrammetry and taking high-resolution 3D scans in order to glean as much of the original details as possible. Among the scientists' conclusions were these:

  • It is likely a map, given certain elements that were repeated and joined by lines.
  • It shows what looks to be an 18-mile-long area following the course of the River Odet.
  • Geo-location determined an 80 percent match between the current geography and that depicted on the slab.
  • Such a creation would have been within the purview of a local political or military leader.

A study of the results is in the Bulletin of the French Prehistoric Society.

Saint-Belec Slab

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