Hotel du Nord puts on line a proposal of the common editions the translation in English by Gillian Xeridat of the first account of hospitality the ravine of the Viste, written by Christine Breton and Hervé Paraponaris and published in December 2010. The Ravine de la Viste More of a chasm than a place: a noise originating from the depths of a bottomless pit that has no shape, like the beating of a heart that has run amok. The mindless, unrelenting rhythm of the highway never ceases its endless friction on the rocky skin from which only something strange can spring forth. All notions of subtlety, traditions and continuity disappear. The steep cliffs erode into shelters of silence and desire, sheltering the centuries, withholding the past of this place.
— But The bone remains —
The giant of the ravine the scale is impossible. It's a monster. Only a huge being could gain access to the enormous cavity that serves as its shelter. It is dug out of the cliff, a sheer drop in the fresh darkness of the deep gorge on the borderline between fantasy and reality. Who is this giant that guards the pass, leaning on the edge of the plateau of La Viste, his feet in the stream called the Aygalades? The Cyclops seems to be waiting for Ulysses. Who is this being who left so little in his tracks that nobody could even confirm that he existed until one of his teeth was found on the site in the 19th century.
— The giant Bone —
An investigation that lasted 1 500 years to understand the amazing discovery in the gorge we must turn back the clock and go off To Tunisia. In 424, Bishop Augustine published a book called The City of God. In this book he related how a huge "tooth" was found at Utica near Tunis: The tooth was attributed to a "giant" in keeping with the story in the Bible. The same idea was recycled in Europe between the 5th and 17th centuries. Any huge tooth that was found was compared to the Utica findings and was considered as proof that there were giants living on Earth before man. Augustine and the Bible wrote the stories. The proof fitted nicely with the stories. But in 1639 Thomas of Arcos, the Provence born renegade from La Ciotat, found another of these "giant" teeth in the area of Utica. Thomas of Arcos was a free spirit, a man of great curiosity, a cross between a curio collector and an antique dealer. He lived in Tunis as a free Muslim after having been a slave, captured in 1628 by the Pirates. He had doubts and did not classify this giant tooth with quite as much certainty as the Bible. He feels his find to Peiresc, a learned man in Aix-en-Provence. Peiresc decided to send the tooth round to a network of his knowledgeable friends in Europe instead of putting it into a show-case of collector's curiosed "giant tooth". As a result the experts analyzed it and their opinion was that it was in fact an elephant tooth…. This came as a thunderbolt, uncovering 1200 years of repeated western errors. But Peiresc kept quiet about his discovery because about the same time Galileo was thrown into prison in Rome by the Catholic Church because he had dared to demonstrate that the Earth was round, revolving around the sun. The "giant" hypothesis therefore lasted another century; No point in going against the Bible and Saint-Augustin at the same time! Just try and imagine the emotion experienced by the person beside the cave in this gorge at the beginning of the 19th century who found the huge fossilized tooth. … Was this a molar tooth belonging to the supposed giant? A giant that was going to have to return to the book of imaginary beings written by Jorge Luis Borges. A François Rabelais style giant who could perhaps have been the fifth of Sir Thomas Browne "Fabulous Animals". Just Imagine the person who found the tooth holding it in his hand; At that very moment the time between fiction and science stood still.
— Fossilised knowledge —
The Aygalades-Florence Lypsky, architect This time the wise men of Provence were sure that it was a fossilised elephant tooth. They therefore sought to identify it and imagined it to be an Elephas Meridionalis like the one discovered some years previously on the same site. By comparing it with the different sub-species published in 1859 by Lartet, they recognised an Elephas Antiquus described by the paleoanthropologist Hugh Falconer in 1847. This was an Elephas that lived in the tuffs in the cliffs. The body stopped rotting because of the carbon released by the lime in the freshwater that ran off the star hills which engulfed it. All this happened at the beginning of the Quaternary era, between the Pliocene and the Pleistocene. Elephas Antiquus lived in Europe between 1 million years (1 Ma) and 100 000 years before our era in a temperate climate. The Elephas Meridionalis preceded it and founded the mammoth family. The fossilised tooth was found in the tuffs over 150 years ago when Gaston de Saporta was busy studying the flora and Felix Timon David collecting fossils that he found on the Plateau de la Viste, where he lived. Which of the two discovered the tooth? It still in existence today because it was given to the geologist and palaeontologist Philippe matherion in the form of a moulding and he put it into his private collection. He swapped items of his collection with his friend G. de Saporta in the tradition started up by Peiresc and the Provence network and they also went out walking together. Walking and meeting huge animals From the 9th to the 17th October 1864, the French geological Society held a meeting in Marseille. Don't think that its members intended to stay indoor seated in a lecture hall! These Ladies and gentlemen went out every day on field trips on foot towards Fuveau, Cassis, Martigues, along the twenty-four wells of the Nerthe tunnel, across the brambles and the tuffs of the ravine from the Viste or climbed the hillsides equipped with hats, sticks, Shoes and hammers. During This extraordinary itinerant meeting – seven days! – they walked with P. Mathern along the railway tunnel that the engineer Talabot had built sixteen years previously. Mathern had followed with interest the works to pierce the tunnel that ran under the La Nerthe Hillside, from the foothills of the estae to those of Gignac, recording and dating all the geological strata. He also made daily drawings of all the fossils he saw during the four years the work lasted and drew up the longest known paleontological cross-section, covering 4638 meters. The members of the Society were able to inspect this 25-metre long document that has unfortunately disappeared since. In his papers on the hills, Mathern mentions "the bone of an enormous Saurian", the Rhabdodon Priscus, and fossilised dinosaur eggs. He was thus the founding father of our modern "dinosaur-mania"! His impressive work on the Gignac foothills revealed with Maestro the greatest scale of time ever recorded in Provence, ranking from the inferior Cretaceous to the Celts of the Oppidum of the bell just above. In the red clay of the foothills of the Estae, he brought to light fossils such as the jaw-bone of the Rhinoceros minutus. They continued until they reached the Roquefavour site… How I would have loved to walk with this great discoverer! The Society also followed G. de Saporta's discoveries and thus we find ourselves in the Gully de La Viste, on the site where he found Elephas Antiquus. The annual newsletter edited by the Society gives us a written account of his walks. The second series, spanning the years 1844 to 1872, offers us the following report in Volume 21, Page 495: – Session of 15th October 1864. Mr. De Saporta gave at talk on some observations he made on the Quaternary travertine area that crowns the heights of La Viste. "The (fossilised) vegetation, that is not lot older than ours, sheltered the great pachyderms of the Quaternary era and was perhaps even offered asylum to the primitive human beings whose traces were found in the diluvium on the edges of the Somme. This therefore confirms the hypotheses that these tuffs are related to the first establishment of human beings and their tools, defended today by the Prehistorian Eugene Bonifay. It also situates the presence of Man much farther back in time and a little later the text confirms yet another assumption. – In the cave-riddled tuffs in the Aygalades area, among a rich mixture of dicotyledonous leaves, not far from the place where the Society had stopped searching, several teeth of Elephas Antiquus were found lying beside each other-probably the remains of the burial of a complete animal. The presence of Mr. de Saporta on this site just after the discovery enabled him to check the excavation and obtain, although with some difficulty, one of the teeth, which was moulded and examined by Messrs. Lartet and Falconer, who both recognised the Elephas Antiquus without any hesitation. So this means that G. de Saporta was the person who made the molding and one can well imagine him giving it to P. Mathern, who made it the masterpiece of his collection. But Why was the mysterious owner so reluctant? For those who are familiar with the bottom of the ravine, it is obvious that the Society stopped searching at the waterfall close to where the cemetery is today. In that area the tuffs are riddled with caves. At that period two owners shared the site-Mr. De Castellane and Mr. De Forbin Janson, both of whom collected curiosities. The little piece of Elephas Antiquus that was moulded and displayed to the public – thereby founding the reputation of the site – is probably now in the reserves of the Museum. Thanks to the kind cooperation of Anne Marko-Blondel, who is the director of the museum today, the reserves were searched to find the mould to take a photograph.
— The plaster mould of the bone —
An Elephant meets with a motorway In 1940, when the northern highway out of Marseille was built, the Earth-moving machines cut into the cliffs when they crossed the ravine. E. Bonifay, accompanied by the Prehistorians Max Escalon and Henry de Lumley went out to collect samples in an area that was dug out on the side where the "gendarmerie" is today. All the paleontological and archaeological material they found is today inaccessible. It is perhaps in the drawers at the MMSH (Mediterranean Museum of Human Sciences) in Aix-en-Provence. I went off to search for it, rather as if I were a sort of archaeologist digging into the depths of our knowledgeable societies. If Nothing comes of our enquiries, the mould of the molar tooth of Elephas Antiquus will teach us nothing, because the environment in which it was found has disappeared and a plaster moulding cannot be chemically analyzed. To sum it all up in a nutshell, that wonderful find will have become sterile in terms of down-to-earth data; Just another nice object in a curio collection. What a terrible loss in terms of scientific knowledge! At this point in the enquiry nothing has really been proven "for posterity", although Elephas Antiquus does exist in out erudite tradition. There are reams of papers on library shelves, confirming or contradicting the existence of the elephant. A sort of strange fatality seems to interfere with the transmission of prehistoric knowledge in situ in Marseille. All the material from the digs carried out in the cave in the ravine seems to have disappeared, as it has for those in materials near the ESTA. The Christi Cave was closed after a dreadful accident in the corridor leading to it. This just goes to show how inaccessible knowledge can become… I can only see two ways of explaining this unfortunate situation. • The first hypothesis is that Elephas was invented. It may be a popular tradition perpetrating the erudite tradition that started in Tunis 1500 years ago – the tradition of the "Giants" related in all the tourist guide books and scientific works voted to the ravine. In that case the fossilized tooth will become part of a poetic tradition involving fabulous animals and our mistaken imagination, which is also in a way a vector of the past. • The second is that tuffs preserve the microcomponents of the water table which may have been the vector that broughted the tooth that was caught up in a concreteness from elsewhere before it became fossilized there.
— Mistaken traditions —
What do the geologists say? I asked Nadine Gomez, a geologist, who is also a connoisseur in modern art and the curator of the dignified museum, what she thought about the tuffs since she lived near the site as a child. Dialogue: CB. – Your family is from Saint-Louis. Are you familiar with the tuffs? Did this site participate in your vocation to become a geologist? Ng. – My parents lived in Saint-Louis when I was born, but I only stayed there for a few months. My interest in geology comes from the walks I did in the region of Digne where I spent all my holidays with my Grandmother and my sister at the beginning of the Sixties. I came to study the tuffs in the Marseilles basin when I did my DEA (Diploma of Advanced Studies). They cover a geographical area of over 10 km2 between Aubagne and Cap Janet, and are part of a major geological feature, La viste. They are made up of travertine, that is to say sedimentary rocks that were deposited by soft water. I've always loved the toponymic connection between Aygalades (aigues means water in Occitan) and the fact that the whole of this region was geologically built up by river sedimentation. Cb. – How Did you study them? Ng. – We had to take samples at the foot of the high-rise blocks of the social housing development at La Viste, to research for flora in the sediment. Thanks to the fossilized remains of plants in the tuffs we have a fairly clear idea of what the vegetation in the ravine was in the Quaternary era, with pubescent oaks, maples, limes, firs, willows and also plants that are more suited to a hot climate such as Ficus , laurels and even palm trees (Chamœrops humiliations); The latter are species that are more compatible with the discovery of an elephant tooth near the Chateau de La viste cb. – Do you think that the animal really exists? Or is it one of the Giant myths, like the one studied by Peiresc? To find out, she advise me to go to the Geology section of the Palaeontology Museum at the university and read G. de Saporta on the Quaternary tuffs of the Aygalades and La Viste (Bull. Soc. Geol. Fr., 2nd series, T. 21, pages 495-499, l864). Thanks to the geologists Elephas Antiquus reappear in its environment of flora and fauna and human represented by a few chips of prehistoric tools, dating back to the confining of prehistory, in the geological findings in the different layers of palaeontology Explored. On The wall of the museum, that I was not familiar with, there was the skull of an elephant that made me think of the Cyclops and in drawer No. 853, Loïc Velazquez, the head of the museum, shown me some of the exhibits from a private collection of fossils that belong to Timo N-David. They came from the ravine and the La Viste Plateau. In the Quaternary tuffs of the Romani countryside in the Pleistocene era fossilized plants appearing in the stony gangue: Oak, alder, nut and willow leaves and fossilized snails. All This formed the organic environment of Elephas Antiquus. We were now on the comforting pathway to understanding our biological heritage: something that lived on Earth 100 000 before us…
— At last some objects in their environment! —
Did any humans live with the elephant of the Aygalades? Let US explore another pathway. What do the standard scientific tools tell us? The archaeological map of Gaulle contributes another, more optimistic note in its volume on Marseilles: The prehistoric sites in the region of Marseille were thoroughly searched with great enthusiasm at an early stage. » But, what about this molar that was found precisely there? Neither M. Escalon, nor E. Bonifay, or the Prehistorian Jean Courtin, who quoted it in the extract from the archaeological map mentioning the tooth and the elephant ever said exactly where it was found, nor where it is now. To read the writings of these modern scientists all you need to do is to consult the on-line catalogue of the libraries of Marseille or enter their names into the data base. But their articles do not yield anything further, we need to meet the scientists or take a look in the drawers that contain their curios. The authors of the map recognise that "nothing much has been added to the data and no critical work was carried out on Marseille during the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic eras. […] The documentation from the older digs, unfortunately not carried out as strictly as would have been desirable, is now unfortunatelyly scattered, inaccessible and in some cases lost. The studies are mainly focused on the materials found and only superficially touch on the actual purpose of the digs "I thereby understand that this lost data reflects the state of our knowledge. Keep that in mind, because on site this assumption can be checked out for each stratum and forms a sort of continuum. If human tools were found, as E. Bonifay states, then we would have and exceptional site for the foundation of a human settlement. In addition to the tuffs of La viste that geologists from all over the world come and visit, the gully shelters another wonder: "Remains from the inferior Palaeolithic era, which are exceptional in France….." A few chips were reported by E. Bonifay in 1972 in the Travertine (tuffs) in the area of the Aygalades, says the geological map. It is time to wonder why these left-overs from the remains collected in 1940 suddenly turn up thirty years later…. Back to square one of our hunt for the impossible, because the habitat of Elephas Antiquus remains invisible, even on the archaeological map, which quotes references that disappear into thin air immediately afterwards. These few words in passing referring to tools made by human hand would be wonderful if it were possible to check the reference, because this would prove that Man lived at the same time as Elephas Antiquus. Only E. Bonifay, could move our knowledge forwards, if he found the materials or proceeded with the digs requested for the past three years by the local people.
— The bone of the city —
Other discoveries made in the Viste Last week two original cards were found; They were written by Mathern in his own handwriting. They describe: "Elephas antiquus Falconer, 2. A" in the upper right corner; "is not in Gervais" on the left; "Tuffs in Saint-Louis" on the right; "Tuffs in a Viste" on the left. In the centre: the reference of his drawing in the Geological Society Review dated 1859. On the other card: "Elephas meridionalis nesti, 1. A, Gervais 69, Pliocene, La viste, Old Alluvion" in the upper left hand corner, taken from his own article. Once again, more paper but nothing on the object itself! However, we are moving forward because it says that the tuff in La Viste is from Saint-Louis. We are therefore with certainty talking about the valley side and not the opposite slope where the clay quarry is. On the other slope the Elephas named Meridionalis, a far older species, is dated as being from the Pliocene era. I went back to the municipal library to consult the catalogue of Matheron's Palaeontology collection for the Pliocene listed in 1898. The first piece quoted in the chapter on remarkable finds is our Elephas Antiquus. At last, we have the card version of the object: Elephas Antiquus, Falconer and Cautley 1847, Pleistocene tuffs from the Aygalades, plaster mould of a molar tooth. In the inventory on the following line there is another description: Elephas Meridionalis, Nesti, Pliocene, plaster mould of a molar tooth, tuffs from the Chateau de La Viste. » With Two time-points I can make history… These two finds, made over 150 years ago, have over time maintained the confusion between two elephants although the time that separated them can be counted in millions of years! The oldest is the one found near the Château de La Viste. Alas, according to Bonifay, the château in question was not the one located just above the cave, but one that was farther on in the clay quarry between Saint-Louis and Saint-André. It was the former Château des Tours, belonging to Foresta and it disappeared as the quarry was excavated in the nineteen-fifties of our era. The molar tooth fossil can thus be dated back to the Pliocene as the rhinoceros jaw found on the same spot was; That is to say 5 to 2 million years previously as the palaeontologists say. This would be the last part of the Tertiary era, say the geologists, or the very beginning of the inferior Palaeolithic, say the Prehistorians. We haven't even got to a historical era yet and already three different time scales are fighting for the continuity of the site! The very same moment in time with three different names, enough to make you lose all sense of simplicity and continuity! And if Bonifay was mistaken about the chateau? The lack of accuracy in everything connected to these finds means that at this point in the investigation we cannot reject the assumption that Elephas Meridionalis may have been alive at the same time as the younger of the two species: Elephas Antiquus, which would thus Link its habitat to the Pleistocene era, somewhere between 600 000 and 100 000 before bear, that is to say in the Quaternary and inferior Palaeolithic eras. Thus it may well have lived alongside human beings with their tools, the chips of limestone found before the Second World War and…. Don't forget….. We are still searching….
— Tools made of stone and bone —
Categories of knowledge and disappearance of knowledge On the borderline between the three categories of knowledge we have just reviewed stands the ravine. We know that the waters are no longer just those that flow from the existing springs and streams but include those that formed the rocks before Man appeared. Did the human beings who invented and used the word "Aygalades" to say who they were and where they were from know that these rocks were made from fossilised water that had deposited sediment over a period of time? When They are formed, rocks write there own history and a geologist knows exactly how to read it with a microscope. It is also water that has hewn out the landscape here and continues to shape it. The giant cave and its environment close by illustrate a temperate period before the following glaciation. Thus, when Joseph Repelin, the geologist gave a reading to the Geographic Society of Marseille in 1902 on a woolly mammoth's tooth he discovered-an Elephas Primigenius-younger than our animal, he used the following landmark to portray the era before the mammoths: " The temperature was warm in Provence during the Quaternary era, which was the time of Elephas Antiquus when the tuffs were deposited in the Aygalades. The backdrop of this landscape was born symbolically too during this period. In the bottom of the ravine runs a stream, a miniature soft-water memory. The vertical walls of the gorge were fashioned out of the limestone layers by a more powerful river. It slowly eroded the harder limestone layers, and then when it came into contact with the softer tuffs it hollowed out all the caves and shelters we can still see today in the cliffs. Some have disappeared under the rubble from the highway or the factories built in the valley. Above, the La Viste Plateau is also full of subterranean's cavitis hollowed out in the tuffs. This is a little piece of landscape that witnesses to the passing of time…. A hypothesis is starting to take shape and the fossil sites will once again be brought back into the continuum by the religious function of the people who live there…
— The bone of religion…
Christine Breton, historian and heritage curator
- HospitalitY Stories N ° 1
- Common editions
- N ° ISBN 978-2-9534899-2-7
- Christine Breton, historian and heritage curator/Hervé Paraponaris, artist
- Translation: Gillian Xeridat
- Number of copies printed: 500 copies
- Printed in December 2010 with the support of CCI-9 Avenue Paul Héroult, on their printing press ZI La Delorme, F-13015 Marseille
- Legal Registration December 2010
The Hotel du Nord is in an area that has remains "nameless", as if it were a blank spot on the map, belonging to a town that has no founding history, with no gate to enter and no centre to stop and wander round – only a hospital. It is the hotel of a town that counts 100 000 inhabitants, in the middle of a wasteland, tacked on to Marseille, the port-city that supported the industrial fabric of a former colonial republic called France-part of the post-war reconstruction and the thirty Glorious ". It is a city with a slant, made up of a series of lively, working class neighbourhoods located in the northern part of Marseille and it surrounding villages. In all these villages, over the ages the inhabitants have developed their own special way of working and living together, their own way of remembering history and telling stories from the past as a form of verbal hospitality; The Hotel of the North is an expression of this. As a scattered network of guest houses, it tells the story of those who drop in to stay and their hosts. The name also includes a publishing program and this book is one of its chapters. Each of the books left in the rooms, seeks to tell its reader more about the hospitality offered by the place the guest found it in. If living somewhere is telling a story, the foundation stories are as many tools that enable us to understand our life in society; Nothing that you create can possibly last if you do not go back to the history of the community it belongs to. KEY page 6 drawing of objects from his collection, that have now disappeared, ordered by Nicolas Peiresc. In Gaston Godard, the fossil Proboscideans of Utica (Tunisia), a key to The ' giant ' controversy, from Saint Augustine (424) to Peiresc (1632), geological Society, London, 2009, v. 310, pages 67-76. * Letter of 25 April 1630, Osman Arcos to Aycard de Toulon on the discovery and Letter of 15 March 1631, Arcos to Peiresc, dispatch and acknowledgement of receipt, in the correspondents of Peiresc, T. 15, P. Tamizey de Larroque, Algiers, Jourdan, 1889. And on Osman of Arcos, censorship and inquisition at the beginning of the17e century Janet Tolbertism, ambiguity of the conversion, Journal of Early Modern History, 2009, v. 13, No. 1, pages 1-24. Page 10 Previous page and above, Marseilles Museum of Natural History, Palais Longchamp. Page 11 Mr. Lartet, on the dentition of Proboscids fossils, Bulletin of the French geological Society, Paris, 1859, T. 16, 2nd series, pages 500-501, plate 15, Figure 10: Elephas Meridionalis and Figure 11: Elephas Antiquus © shared documentation Department of The University of Provence. Page 14 P. Mathern (1807-1899) belonging to the network of scientists that Napolean IIIrd encouraged in Marseilles at the beginning of the colonial period. The collection is mainly made up of items from Provence including 40 000 samples and over 2 000 new species registered; Since it was purchased in 1902 it has been part of the inventory of the Museum of Natural History of Marseille. Page 18 At The Museum of Palaeontology, Faculty of Science, Marseille. Page 42 Marseille lacustrine. At the Museum of Paleontology, Faculty of Science, Marseille. Page 46 G. de Saporta and P. Mathern published a large format book together in 1861 in Zurich: Notes on the tertiary areas of the south-east of France, containing a stratigraphic description covering the oldest to the most modern times enabling us to date the discovery At the Aygalades as 1860: Above The clays of the Marseilles basin we found an uninterrupted succession of lacustrian deposits withholding successively Equus Antiquus, Elephas Meridionalis and higher Still, in the tuffs at La Viste, another elephant, Elephas Antiquus. »