Map to Long-Lost Treasure Found Carved in 4,000-Year-Old Rock Slab


A new analysis of a 4,000-year-old stone slab, consigned to the storage area of an ancient castle in France, suggests that it may be engraved with directions to long-lost Bronze Age treasure dating from 2,150 to 1,650 B.C.

Researchers declared the Saint Belec slab Europe’s oldest map in 2021, and since then have been working to decipher its intricate carvings. They hope this will have the dual purpose of giving more information about the slab itself, as well as lead them to undiscovered treasure.

“Using the map to try to find archaeological sites is a great approach. We never work like that,” Yvan Pailler, a professor at the University of Western Brittany (UBO), told Science Alert. “It’s a treasure map.”

Pailler and his colleague Clement Nicolas uncovered the slab all the way back in 2014. “There were a few engraved symbols that made sense right away,” said Pailler, but it would take years of work to uncover the rest.

It’s likely the slab was used by a prince who assumed rule of the area through a military coup. The stone was broken into several pieces, which could have indicated that his rule in the region had come to an end.

In order to recover the rest of the slab’s fragments and contextualize their discovery, the researchers have returned to the site, one of the largest Bronze Age burial sites in Brittany, to dig for further remnants in the hopes of contextualizing the slab. Already, they’ve recovered several more fragments which Nicolas posits were broken off and built into the wall of a tomb. This could signify shifting power dynamics within Bronze Age settlements.

It’s likely, Nicolas says, that the area in which the slab was uncovered belonged to an ancient kingdom. “The engraved slab no longer made sense and was doomed by being broken up and used as building material,” Nicolas said.

Before the adventure can begin, though, Pailler and his colleague Clement Nicolas must map the entire 18 by 13 mile radius in search of further artifacts. That alone could take up to 15 years.

There’s also much left unidentified on the slab itself. “We still have to identify all the geometric symbols, the legend that goes with them,” said Nicolas.

Hopefully, the treasure they find will be worth the wait.

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