Caille Meteorite |
Extraterrestrial Visitor |
Caille village |
The Caillite was discovered in 1630 by a shepherd, at the top of the Audibergue mountain, 3 or 4 km southeast of Caille village.
When it was found it was called simply "iron-stone" (pierre de fer) as nobody had any idea what it really was. The locals used four oxen to drag the heavy stone down to Caille. The village blacksmith (maréchal-ferrant) tested a fragment of the meteorite in his forge and determined the iron, which was mixed with stone, to too poor a quality to be interesting.
The iron-stone was thus left abandoned - for the next 150 years. Around 1780 a villager built the iron-stone into the wall of his house, even though many of the villagers venerated the stone because of its mysterious origin.
The wall of the house was eventually torn down and the stone sat for some time on the main street of the village, and then set in front of Caille's church where, from 1826 to 1828 it served as a public bench.
About this time, a mining engineer on vacation in the area got a hold of a sample of the stone. Being an enthusiast of natural science, he sent the sample to the Academy of Science in Paris for testing, where it was identified as a meteorite.
Following a strong interest by France's interior minister to acquire the meteorite, the mayor and town council decided to offer it to the King, Charles X the Well-Loved, in exchange for a village clock. The trade was concluded in 1829, and the meteorite became a part of the collection of the National Museum of Natural History.
In addition to getting a village clock out of the deal, a mold was made of the "Caillite" in 2007 to display a model of it in the Mairie.
The meteorite has remained in the Paris museum for nearly 200 years, and is leaving there for the first time to be displayed at the Parc Phoenix in Nice for two days: 20-21 November 2010.
The Caillite is the largest meteorite ever found in France. It weighs 625 kg, measures 60 by 90 cm, and until recently was the largest meteorite in Europe. In 2008, the 1200 km "Muonionalusta" was discovered in Sweden.
Information from the village of Caille and from an article in the Nice Matin (3 Nov 2010)