London, Aug 6 (ANI): Researchers at the University of Zaragoza have unearthed what they believe is man's earliest map, dating from almost 14,000 years ago.
The research team, led by archaeologist Pilar Utrilla, discovered a stone tablet in a cave in Abauntz in the Navarra region of northern Spain in 1993 but it has taken them 15 years to disentangle the mess of etched lines.
The artefact found during excavation of the cave is believed to contain the earliest known representation of a landscape.
Engravings on the stone, which measures less than seven inches by five inches, and is less than an inch thick, appear to depict mountains, meandering rivers and areas of good foraging and hunting.
"We can say with certainty that it is a sketch, a map of the surrounding area," the Telegraph quoted Utrilla as saying.
"Whoever made it sought to capture in stone the flow of the watercourses, the mountains outside the cave and the animals found in the area.
"The landscape depicted corresponds exactly to the surrounding geography. Complete with herds of ibex marked on one of the mountains visible from the cave itself," she added.
The research adds to further understanding of early modern human capacities of spatial awareness, planning and organised hunting.
"We can't be sure what was intended in the making of the tablet but it was clearly important to those who populated the cave 13,660 years ago. Maybe it was to record areas rich in mushrooms, birds' eggs, or flint used for making tools," Utrilla said.
According to the researchers, it may also have been used as a storytelling device or to plan a hunting expedition.
"Nothing like this has been discovered elsewhere in western Europe," she said.
The research has been published in the latest edition of the Journal of Human Evolution. (ANI)