Ancient scratched stones: World’s earliest maps or magic artifacts?

A set of broken stones covered with etchings of lines and squares, discovered at a 5,000-year-old sacred site in Denmark, may be some of humankind’s earliest maps, according to archaeologists. The researchers think the inscribed stones are symbolic maps of local landscapes, and were perhaps used in rituals by Stone Age farmers who hoped to magically influence the sun and the fertility of their farmlands. Fragments of 10 of the “map stones” or “landscape stones” were found in June, during excavations of a round, earth-walled enclosure at the Vasagard archaeological site on Bornholm, a Danish island in the Baltic Sea. Excavations of the enclosure since the 1990s have found hundreds of broken flat stones inscribed with patterns of radiating straight lines, called “sun stones” or “solar stones” (“solsten” in Danish). Archaeologists have said these artifacts are likely from the rituals of a Neolithic sun-worshipping religion that existed about 5,000 years ago. But the map stones are inscribed with squares and lines that look like fields, fences and plants, said archaeologist Flemming Kaul, the curator and senior researcher in prehistory at the National Museum of Denmark. “There was one particular stone that seems to be rather complicated, and we all agree that it looks like some sort of a map — not a map in our modern sense, but a stylized map,” Kaul told Live Science. “And I could see some similarities with rock carvings from the Alps in northern Italy, dated to the same period of time, which are interpreted as symbolic landscapes — and that is what I believe we have found now.” The most detailed of the newly discovered map stones went on display in October at the Moesgaard Museum in Aarhus, Denmark. It measures about 2 inches across, and has been broken into three pieces. One triangular piece has not yet been found, the researchers said. “That is one that seems to be very complex, with different sorts of fields, and something which looks like plants, which could be a symbol for a crop like barley, and other details that look like fences,” Kaul said. “And it’s fascinating that even though it’s so small, you can certainly see that these patterns have been very deliberately made.” Kaul said the stone was probably crushed during an ancient ritual, like what the researchers saw with many sun stones also found at the site. The pieces were then deposited in the rings of ditches that surround the sacred enclosure sometime between 2900 B.C. and 2700 B.C., according to the archaeologists.

Fascinating!!  To see a photo of these broken stones, and to read the rest of the article, click on the text above.  🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s