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Recently Discovered Scratched Stone in Denmark Could be One of The Earliest Maps in History

Recently Discovered Scratched Stone in Denmark Could be One of The Earliest Maps in History


Reports of existing archaeological discoveries are pouring in lately from Scandinavia. A puzzling stone found in a ditch on Bornholm, a Danish island in the Baltic Sea, to the east of the rest of Denmark, could be one of the earliest maps in human history according to archaeologists and researchers at the National Museum of Denmark. The recent find, however, was not complete. It is made up of two pieces and one piece is still missing. As the magazine Skalk reports, the stone was discovered during archaeological excavation work at the Neolithic shrine Vasagård, where scientists have previously unearthed similar ancient stones inscribed with rectangular patterns filled with different rows of lines and shading.

The discovery was made on the island of Bornholm, Denmark

The discovery was made on the island of Bornholm, Denmark (flickr)

Excavations of the paddock since the early nineties have discovered many broken flat stones inscribed with patterns of radiating straight lines, called "sun stones" or "solar stones”. Archaeologists have claimed that these artifacts were most likely used in the rituals of the followers of a Neolithic sun-worshipping religion that existed almost five millennia ago.

By 3500 BC locals had set up farms in several parts of Northern Europe where they built groups of houses with wood and stone, surrounded by fields. They grew wheat and barley, which they ground into flour. Some farmers grew beans and peas. Others grew a plant called flax, which they made into linen for clothes. The early farmers also went hunting and gathered nuts and berries to eat, but they spent most of their time working on their farms. For that reason they often worshiped their own Gods or Mother Nature to be generous with them and for that purpose they organized rituals in which they possibly used these stones.

Not a “Solar Stone” But a Map

The recently found stone is filled with lines that look like rays too, but it is not like other “sun stones”. It is probably something else. Unlike previous and similar findings, Flemming Kaul, an archaeologist and senior researcher at the National Museum, is almost certain after examining closely the artifact, that the stone does not show the sun and the sun’s rays, but displays the topographic details of a piece of nature on the island as it appeared between the years 2900 and 2700 BC.

“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. " 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 stone disk found on Bornholm. Photo by Marta Bura

Still a “Ritual Stone”

Flemming Kaul called the newly found artifact a stone "without parallel" and speculates that it was also used in rituals, where it was possibly crushed. He suggests that both the map stones and sun stones were used together in rituals to impact the effects of the sun on the fertility of a particular landscape. He says, “Often when ritual objects have had a certain life cycle, then they are deposited at a sacred place, perhaps also to enhance the magic of the ritual which has just been performed with them," and adds, "And of course, when they are broken, then they are not working more in the human world — but they are still working in another spirit world, by being placed in the ditches of these sacred sites.” [via Live Science].

The Interpretation of the Map Stones Could be Debatable

For the end, Kaul acknowledges that the interpretation of the map stones could be somewhat controversial and expects to find more map stones in the near future that will give us a better idea of their role and significance. Kaul told Live Science, "About 20 years ago, after the first solar stones were found, I wrote about it for Skalk – and even the editor of the magazine didn't believe it. Now, after 20 years, we have found more than 200 solar stones, and they are one the most important things from Bornholm; so let's wait a couple of years to see if there are more map stones to come."

Top image: The engraved stone found in Denmark, which may be a Stone Age map. Credit: Bornholms Museum/Skalk Magazine

By Theodoros II



I always chuckle to myself when an archaeologist is not sure of what has just been found, so they call it a religious artifact. Could it be that 1,000 years from now, that generation will look back at all the sports stadiums built around the world and think 'must have been a religious gathering place where they prayed to their gods'?

Theodoros Karasavvas's picture


Theodoros Karasavvas, J.D.-M.A. has a cum laude degree in Law from the University of Athens, a Masters Degree in Legal History from the University of Pisa, and a First Certificate in English from Cambridge University. When called upon to do... Read More

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