Riou et les Calanques du docteur Albert


Riou Et Les Calanques Today





290 ANS BP



AFTER 1991

Cosquer Cave

Lime Kilns

Gun Points

The Turk

Antoine de St Exupéry's F5B Lightning

Alexis zu Bentheim

Puits des Chèvres

Historical mentions of Riou and  the Calanques

Histoire Grande et Petite



 Ramblings of a Solitary Stroller

The Archipelago of Riou
Plane - Grand Conclu - Petit Conclu - Riou - Jarre - Jarron - Les Mogliades -Les Impériaux

This web site is to document a discovery of an archaelogical site on the Island of Riou in 1962 by my father, Dr. Georges Albert.
He came to Marseille to do his military duty and fell in love with the region. He joined a hillclimbing club  and started roaming the hills  taking pictures around 1929.
He soon became a passionate "grimpeur", and as a member of the Club Alpin Français worked on doing descriptions of the hill climbs. The maps of the area were not adequate, so he became a surveyor and realized the 2 maps of the Massif de Marseilleveyre, and of the Massif de Puget. They are the base of the 2 books he wrote during the war , describing the hill climbs of the region  called Les Calanques. The descriptions were supported by photographies. So many, that the book was too onerous to print and remained unpublished until today. You will find it under the "Escalades" section, and you will find the maps of the area in the "Cartes" section of the front page.

In Provence  water is scarce. My father, who at the age of 10 had mapped with the gardener his family property near Lyon and recorded the 2 springs there, had noticed that the name of the cove on the island of Riou suggested the presence of a spring. "Fontagne", similar word, fontaine in French, fons,fontis in latin, obviously the word roots pointed to water.
The island is subjected to violent storms beginning in August, and the Puits des Chèvres on the other end of the island fills up with 2 feet of water. Simple hole in a clay depression, typical of the karstic limestone, surrounded by rocks put there, we thought, by the goat keepers who rented the island during the last five centuries.  In the 15th century, in 1442 to be exact, Marseille built a house and a cistern for the watch guards, and that construction is located to the north of the peak called Pic Occidental at the end of the vallon de l'Aiglon. It collects the rain water which runs down the rocky face.

During the summer of 1962 my father was restoring the above cistern on the island of Riou, when a storm filled it with 3 feet of water. As he could not carry on with his work, he decided to go check on a hole he had started to dig in the cove of Fontagne, near a wall made of dry stones. Water had also collected in that hole during the rainstorm, so he dug it up and restored it too. He found some potsherds and showed them to Fernand Benoit, who had been the top archaeologist in Marseille since the war. Benoit told him the bits were massaliote pottery from 600 BC. By then he was surveying the area, and recorded the steps of his digging.

The discovery happened as I was leaving for the USA to indulge in my passion for automobile racing.
I never was really involved, but for the occasional find of the collar of a massaliote amphora, which I retrieved while snorkelling in the cove of Fontagne.
When my father passed away in 1991, I hung his maps in the living room, and stored away a box of artifacts in the cellar, and all his notebooks in a plastic container. The islands were bought by the Conservatoire du Littoral and quickly were made off-limit to the public. I was content enough to watch my island  and to take pictures of oustanding sunsets and storms.


and one of my favorites with the sun setting on the ninth of september behind the lighthouse of Planier which is a true island of the Bay of Marseille


We were still very much involved in racing in F1 and Offshore, when 5 years after losing my father I also lost my husband Peter Weismann.
My life went on for a while, mainly in Offshore thanks to my dear friend from my Ferrari years,
Dott. Ingegnere Carlo Chiti, who also passed away.
My sons Christopher and Patrick took over my business. My passions had run their courses.

One day, I received a fax from my mother asking if she could give the map of Riou to the guard of the Conservatoire du Littoral who wanted to scan it. I said okay on one condition, to be taken to the island, for my memories  were fading and I could not make much sense of the 50 pages and drawings my dad had written to relate his work during 4 years. Little did I know that it would spin me towards archaeology.

True to his word, Alain Mante took me to the island in 2003.  Impressed by my father's maps, he wanted to set-up an exhibit, and looking for support he came to my home with Mr. Drocourt, architect of the Atelier du Patrimoine, and Lucien- François Gantes, municipal archaeologist of the town of Marseille.
I took out the potsherds, cleaned them a little, set them up on the terrace.
On arrival, LF Gantes took one look at them and said "It is what we have: Dressel 7/11 from -50 to +50."
From the bottom of my ignorance I had to ask what was a dressel 7/11 and I was told that during 100 years there was on the island a tuna fishing industry using that particular type of amphorae.
When I protested that Benoit himself had pronounced the sherds to be greek/massaliote from the 6th century BC, Gantes replied that Benoit did not care for the Romans, and preferred that everything be Greek!
Later while discussing the skeleton, I explained that Mr Charles of the Anthropology Museum of Paris had identified him as a Macedonian about 35 years of age, about 400 to 600 years old, Gantes told me impatiently: "These are post-war theories. One cannot deduce the race by the shape of a skull..
In one afternoon he had trashed the conclusions of his distinguished colleagues!!
It did not bother me, but it was throwing a rock in my pond: Having found in my father's notebooks the story of the discovery of the Fons, I was thinking about having it published. There were some erroneous stories going around, and I wanted to put an end to them since I had the document.  I was also intrigued by the fact that Gantes picking up a handle declared it to be from Betique, another to be Dressel 2/4.  Things had changed since  1962  and the potsherds  could be identified.. I asked LF Gantes if he would help me identify them, and he kindly accepted.
I started off by putting 77 pages on the floor one per tesson (artifact) , numbered them, drew them, in an attempt to get familiar with them. When I went to the Atelier du Patrimoine in Marseille, LFG showed me a drawer full of bits, similar to mine, but from the other cove, and then proceeded to give me a quick course and some drawing tricks. He suggested I'd buy the book "Amphores..comment les identifier" written by Martine Sciallano,diver and conservateur of the Museum of Istres.
Not wanting to tire my new contact I had not taken all of the artifacts. I gathered another bunch and went to Istres. Frederic Marty, young ceramic expert was put to the test, then Martine Sciallano joined us and they identified some handles as coming from Tarraconaise and Lusitania, one bit being a mortar, another a roof tile rather "recent". The Museum, small but stuffed with amphorae is a jewel. The building dates from the XVIIth century. Lots of books to buy, Ms Sciallano being very active in presenting  exhibits. I picked "20000 Pots sous les Mers" because it was set-up like Jules Verne's 20000 Leagues Under the Sea with Gustave Doré's illustrations. It had nothing to do with the Greeks or the Romans, but was about an exposition of glazed pottery from Mediterranean wrecks.
By the end of 2004, I was beginning to have a serious collection of books, including les Etudes Massaliètes, and I was discovering my home town past.
After the war, Fernand Benoit was the big boss of archaeology. The Germans had done him a favor by blowing up the old town in Marseille: Scared by the slash-your-throat look of the place, they kicked everybody out and blew up the middle-age section choosing to leave one building standing in a show of culture (?!) or maybe explosive precision. Unfortunately for Benoit, he could not leisurely have a go at finding the greek settlement. Reconstruction had to happen. But he did find the theater, the roman docks, a huge ionic capital re-employed in the docks, maybe a relic of the temples mentionned by Strabon?
While my father came from Lyon, my maternal family was from the agora of Marseille and like many marseillais had a cabanon in a small fishing village of Les Goudes, where the road around the bay runs into the superb white rocky hills called Le Massif des Calanques.
Around 1952, a friend of ours from Les Goudes, Gaston Christianini was fishing with the help of a new invention: air bottles. He found a spot full of amphorae near the islands of the Grand and Petit Conclu or Congloué.  He was diving deep, and was  victim of the bends. The French Navy had a caisson in Toulon  but
from what I am told, some time passed before he was taken there, and he remained paralyzed from the waist down. His discovery was taken over by Cousteau and Benoit. The Calypso was anchored over the wreck. It was the beginning of underwater archaeology, the commercialization of the aqualung, and the making of Cousteau Superstar.
Benoit was now overwhelmed with artifacts from the sea time-capsules. He was having to rethink many things, and as his student Jean Courtin explained his style, he went at it with a shovel, and not with a brush like they do today. So he made big mistakes: he did not fathom that the wood they found in the wreck was not the deck of the roman ship, but the bottom of another wreck which had settled down on top of the other one, some 100 years later, mixing up the artifacts, and sending Benoit to the wrong conclusion that the land dated ceramics were mistakenly dated. So what! He was inventing methods, conceiving new ideas about trade. He does not need as a feather in his cap to be called the inventor of the Conclu wreck.
Gaston Christianini is the man who found it. Without  him  all this would still be at the bottom of the sea covered with barnacles. Unsung hero of underwater archaeology, Gaston after his accident went back to scuba diving. He would shuffle across the square throwing his legs around in order to walk to the harbor and reach his boat "Joie de vivre".. A smile from ear to ear, in his wet suit, this is how I remember him.

Towards the end of 2004, I told Alain that I was  done with my artifacts, and that I had just about decided to set-up a website rather than try to find a publisher. He  asked me  if I was interested in identifying their collection. His staff visits the islands regularly to tag the endangered species of birds, and they find bits and pieces. They collect them to eventually pass them onto Gantes. I said yes before I looked at them..!
 I was also taking a course " Introduction to Archaeology" in a local college near my home in California. Dr. Breece, who had worked at Lascaux, did not talk much about the Greeks. I wanted to eventually be able to participate in a dig, so I did enjoy his course about prospecting, about the archaïc indian societies who left kjoekken-moddings near my home by the Back Bay of Newport Beach. An artifact found there by my kids turned out to be a scrapper. We had an outing with archaeologists friends on the trails of Shoshone Indians once, found some quartz, some metate.
My father whose ancestors came from Limousin and Haute Vienne had taken us to Les Eyzies, on a trip back from the 24 hours of Le Mans. Mocking his sister who was deeply involved in the genealogy of the Albert family, he told us that Cromagnon was our real ancestor. And of course with Lascaux, Chauvet and Cosquer, the paleolithics are the stars in France. Not so much in the US, especially with Cosquer. I must admit that when I heard there were drawings of penguins, the thought  crossed my mind that it was an histoire Marseillaise!  (The Marseillais are always accused of exaggerating their accounts to make them more interesting to the audience). And of course Cosquer did not reveal his findings for 5 years which made it look suspicious for the wrong reasons. The polemic that surrounded the anouncement, the difficulties of entering the cave  seem to have left a bad taste to every body. I will come back to this later.
So here I was, really concerned about finding as much as possible about the Massalietes, and I was forced to learn about other cultures. But in my horizon was looming a person which the French  call "incontournable", meaning you can't get around him and you find him everywhere.  He had done digs on the island just after the time my father ended his work there, he had written papers about the sea level, he was the master of Cosquer.

Jean Courtin was THE expert in neolithics, way up on the totem pole of the south of France archaeology. I had to meet him!
LF Gantes told me that he was retired and a recluse in his farm in Haute Provence.
In class at OCC in Los Angeles, I requested a video about Cosquer, and for the first time saw  Jean Courtin, sitting at the back of the boat, shoulder to shoulder with Henri Cosquer, the two of them in wet suits,  two burly guys, with a beard, in front of the cliff which towers 160 feet over the entrance of the cave. In that video Jean Clottes was the narrator, watching the "dig" on a TV screen.
Dr. Breece mentionned Jean Clottes was in California giving a lecture on Chauvet. I went there, and asked for Courtin's adress.  I carefully composed a letter as I was ready to head back to France for the summer.

Meanwhile, Alain's tessons were starting to be a problem: They were pretty much all glazed, and when I suggested taking them to LF Gantes, he bowed out saying he was out of his league and I needed to go to Aix en Provence to the library at the Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences Humaines! And had I read the book which had just come out "Les Iles Côte à côte" ?  Strabon, a roman geographer mentions the Stoechaedes Islands, but there are quite a few groups of islands which could fit the name. The book deals with all the french archipelagoes along the coast of Southern France, the archipel de Riou included, and thought to be the small Stoechaedes. The big ones being in front of Hyères and Olbia the Massalia military outpost.
The island of Maïre is  very likely the Immadras Positio, a positio normally being a cape or a place to anchor, but as I discovered this year, when you arrive from Italy, Maïre is not detached from the mainland and looks very prominent. This view from a remaining farossium of Cape Sicié near Toulon. The foreground is the site of another Massalia military outpost Taureis, now Le Brusc and the islands of Les Embiez.


I bought the book, read it, I also read 20,000 Pots sous les Mers trying to identify some  of the tessons found near the watch tower of Riou. Taking a walk around my home I saw a piece of clay with a green glaze similar to what I had been looking at, and when I looked up I saw a wall  made of dry stones. Clambering to it, I found what look like the base of a guard tower, and when I emerged through the pine trees covering it, I could see Riou! I was so excited  one would think I had just met Harrison Ford in Jurassic Park. Same pottery, same towers, round, 4m in diameter, I had just read in Bouillon-Landais that windmills, watch towers were build that way until the 16th century. Could it be a watch tower from 1300 on?

18 th century pitchers (Port d'Alon left), (Riou right)

Cabin in Port d'Alon

Watch tower in Erbalunga built by the Genoese

Some of the tessons from Riou looked like petals of a daisy. It looked like a 13th century bowl on 20000 Pots. I made an appointment to see Jean-Christophe Treglia at the MMSH, and took off to Aix en Provence.  While walking through the lobbies in search of the library, I realized the names near each door were the authors of the articles I had just read in Les Iles Côte à Côte.  Seeing the potsherds, J-C Treglia took me to meet Lucy Vallauri of the LAMM: She turned out to be one of the authors of 20,000 Pots and of many other books of the many exhibits she had realized, and of emergency digs.

o, my piece was not 13th century, it was 16th century pisan import, with A Stecca decoration, but another one was 14th century rosé pisan, and my green emerald local 18th century. I was so impressed I had to buy some of her books, and I ended up carrying home one about white and blue tiles used to decorate fireplaces! 
Reading it I recognized I actually owned 2 of them, from 1750, made in the Montpellier area. These 2 tiles framed in steel had been in my great grand-mother kitchen before being relegated in our cabanon in Les Goudes, until I picked them up for my own kitchen.

That year when I arrived in Port d'Alon there was a 3-page letter from the recluse Jean Courtin giving me all sorts of exciting details about his work, the bulletin he had published years ago about the dating of what he had found on the island, recommendations on where to find the pot which made Riou the most ancient neolithic site in Southern Provence.


Ornementation of this pot is made with the shell of the cardium, which has given its name to the Cardial Culture( Palais Longchamps - Musée d'Histoire Naturelle)

 Grinding stones found in La Sabliere
Palais Longchamps - Musée d'Histoire Naturelle)

Looking to volunteer for a dig I went to meet some PHD students near the Cap Couronne where one can see the remnants of a quarry used by the Greeks of Massalia to build their ramparts.

The young woman played docent around the neolithic site dug by Escalon de Fonton, and suggested that I leave them to their fine dig and go visit the Musée de Chateauneuf Les Martigues.
The Museum is in a castle which belonged to the Seytres before the revolution, has an extensive geological collection, but also some artifacts right out of 20,000 Pots under the sea, where I found the metallic luster from Valenza I had discussed with JC Treglia the week before. Near by, is a neolithic dig done by Jean Courtin, l'Abri des Pigeons.
Back to Les Goudes I could not see Mante to tell him where I was at with his artefacts. I went to the Pastré Musée de la Faience in the hope of finding some common pitchers next to their beautiful collection of XVIIth century provencal ceramics. I had forgotten the first room where I now was finding a treasure: Cardial pots, Massaliete amphorae, roman amphorae, pitchers, plates made locally by the workshops of l'Atelier de l'Huveaune.. 

So close to what can be found on Riou, I felt I was finally getting somewhere. Forever a student, I was really enjoying myself. I was meeting passionate people, I was getting a grasp of the history of the island which was becoming more personal and so alive. My only regret was not to be able to discuss it with my father. When I was reading about his disappointment about the cistern filling up with brackish water, I found myself wishing I could tell him that the tessons were serving to put fish in salt, so a little more a little less.. and also that these guys were going to the other end of the island looking for water, and that right across la Grande Candelle, his domain of the 50s, there was a miraculous cave full of paintings, and  from there, at the time of the Cromagnons one could go to Riou on foot.
Everything in its own time.. 25 years ago I could not have envisioned doing a web site to publish his work. Marvel of technology.. in 3 years I have come from ignorance to confusion. I have had to struggle with digital photography, archaeology, learning websites, reading tens of books.
At least I can correct my mistakes as I go along.
I hear my father say :" It is not necessary to hope to start working, nor to succeed to persevere"! Tough program, but all I need is to look out of my window to find the most extraordinary boost there is

(Cliché M.Weismann) Riou sunrise

 Navire de Pierre Ancré dans le Mistral (Jean Courtin)
Stone Ship anchored in the Mistral


Riou et les Calanques du docteur Albert

When I was in Dearborn working for Ford, a post card of Riou was facing me above my desk.
My island in the sun was the only thing I missed while I was discovering America.
Riou is beautiful, but not very generous.
It is an island in the sun, but there is a shadowy side  imposed by man.
It seems quite close, but it has a tough side. It is full of extremes, without being very big.
There is a beautiful beach of blond sand, but also some breathtaking cliffs,
 sweet-smelling lilies and bare, sun baked, dazzling white urgonian sandstone.
30000 years ago when it was attached to the continent, it was just another hill,
 but now as an island she is unique and lovely.

This is the fabulous cove of the island: La plage du Vallon de l'Aiglon


8000 years BP On Riou, The Campers of la Sablière


Alain Mante never passes an opportunity to talk with people who have had something to do with Riou. He also is curious to find out who  constructed the various dry-stone walls on the island and when. He was interested in my father's map, because it names different points. The region is quite poor, and difficult to reach, but it is not very far from the first city built in France 2600 years ago by the greeks from Phokaia, now Foça in Turkey. There was a lot of trade going on by boat, right through the Roman times, a lot of pirating  all the way trough the Middle Ages until the 19th century, a lot of exploiting the meager ressources right through the 19th century.
Because of their strategic positions the islands have been used as look-outs from the time of the Greeks. But during the last Ice age, when the sea level was  120 meters down from where it is today, the area was part of the continent, the trees were pines and silver birch, the fauna was horses, bisons, deer and penguins. This is when the entrance of the Cosquer Cave was in the open air and the Cromagons were hunting  nearby, traveling on foot between Cosquer and Riou  which must have look like La Grande Candelle looks today with its feet in the waters of the Calanque of Morgiou.
In the 19th century when Napoleon III started the modernisation of french cities, the sand of the Calanques area was exploited to the rock. On Riou 2 hollows were scrapped bare, and in doing so, the workmen came across some skeletons. They were rather tall and had some big white teeth, so they were labelled British and probably were tossed into the sea, the British having been a pain in the neck in the area, pirating, occupying towns, seizing cargo, etc.. One of Bonaparte's first job had been to kick them out of Toulon when he was still a young general. On Riou, la Calanque des Anglais is on the South side of the island, next to the Cape of Smugglers.
E. Fournier who was one of the first scientists in the area around 1860, came across some more bones, which he identified as Cromagnon. To the East close to a lime kiln, maybe used by the builders of the massive ramp which allowed them to take the sand all the way to the barges, there is the site where Dr Capitan found what he thought were Egyptian flints, under roman, greek and neolithic artifacts. Jean Courtin  found some grinding stones and some storage jars and a ceramic pot decorated with a cardium shell. Snails, patella nearby, established the site as the oldest one in Southern Provence.


5000 years ago, men and women were breaking this jar and cooking over this campfire !
What is amazing to me, is that if you find 5 bits they all seem to belong to a different pot. Obviously the hunters-gatherers who came to live on the sandy hollow stayed for a while, cultivating lentils, garbanzo beans.
All which follows is a small sample of what has been communicated by Jean Courtin.


Even with a small piece, one is amazed to find out that size is always important, and the reinforcements can be ingenious and artistic at the same time.

Reinforcing coils used for decoration. The hole could be for hanging or repair

Decoration of the reinforcing coil, which helps making it adhere to the pot.


 Fossilized eggshell, Sea snails, patella               Beginning of a handle decorated with three coils  

2 bits of flint collected by Jacques Collina-Girard, MMSH geologist and diver
Top left fossilized eggshell found by  Alain Mante.. to each, his own area of expertise!

When I first met LF Gantes, Alain gave him the heel of a stone ax made of polished green stone he had found in a rabbit hole. LF Gantes remarked pleasantly: "Where would the archaeologist be without the rabbits". I never thougth of taking a picture then, so I am borrowing pictures from Jean Courtin


How to knock a tree down with a stone ax.           Alain's find is of green stone and about a 1/3 of this one, similar to the one found on Riou

2012:  We have had an update due to prospections of the sites by a group of archaeologists under the direction of  Ingrid Senepart, disciple of Jean Courtin.
In the Small Sabliere, we found a piece of a pot and 2 small handles she recognized as cardial. The intense color of the clay brings to ming the island clay, which has a high content of hematite



The remnants of a dinner were not near the pot, but on the other valley. Only one patella ferruginea was found transported further down, by the rainfall which uncovered the artefacts
The ferruginea is extinct in the south of France, but can be found much bigger than this in Algeria, and I am told in Portugal


Riou et les Calanques du docteur Albert


2500 Years ago a boat like this one

did drop this amphora collar


The collar is authentic.  The boat : a replica of Odysseus' boat (older by about 1000 years) came this year (2009) from Foça in 57 days, and should go back to Istambul via the Danube.

This type of amphora was made by the inhabitants of Massalia between -500 and 200. This one was found in the cove of Fontagne pictured above, but some bits can be found all the way to the Puits des Chèvres, the water hole on the other side of the island.



2100 Years ago the Tuna Fishermen who were feeding the Roman Legions were drawing Water from the Water Hole in  Fontagne


 2000  year-old tuna vertebra      


Near  the golden beach of Riou  is the site of a fishing industry that lasted at least 100 years around the beginning of the  first millenium. The 20th century destruction of the cabins erected on the site have helped to hide the artefacts among the roof tiles and bricks. But one can still find some tuna vertebrae of an epoch when amphorae were wide-collared in order to be filled with fish and salt. La Provincia of the Romans was experiencing an economic boom due to the settling of veterans along the paved roads leading to the riches of Spain and the north. The Romans loved and needed a lot of fish and the accompanying sauce made of marinated innards. Broken bits of these amphorae are all around the cove. At least one of them was used in the construction of the cabins 18 centuries later. It belongs to a Dressel 20 which was an oil amphora made in Spain.  

 I have related how I heard the name of Dressel for the first time.
This german archaeologist studying amphorae in Rome made a list of 45 different styles and give them some numbers.For example, a Dressel 1A is an italian amphora to transport wine from  -200 -100, the variation  Dr1B follows in the years -100 à -25.

As I was still looking for fieldwork I came across ArchaeoSpain offering 2 weeks of digging on the Testaccio in Rome
In "Amphores comment les identifier" I had read that Dressel had worked on a hill made out entirely of broken amphorae, called Testaccio in the heart of Rome. Some 25 millions amphorae were piled up there! Forget the museums.. I would most certainly find there the 45 types he identified even in pieces.
I had been puzzled by the different view points on the use of amphorae. Some would call them disposable containers, other recyclable. It was obvious that for people coming across an amphora, it was a great storage vessel. but it was also apparent that for 400 years, the Romans destroyed tons of these containers arriving in their port. I had to see this!
This is how in October 2005 I joined 7 Americans and about 10 PHD students from the University of Barcelona and their Professor Remesal. We were in the heart of Rome, near the Tevere, and a marble pyramid, and there it was,  a hill,120 feet high,made only of ceramic potsherds with its belt of bars and discos. Unfortunately we could not look for the 45 Dressels. Our Spaniards were only interested in finding writings on oil amphorae called the Dressel 20! Every year they dig holes through layers of artefacts. There are mainly amphorae from Betique, namely Andalousy, a few from Tunisia, even less from Greece and the middle east.
These amphorae were bringing taxes from the Empire as olive oil, which was the commodity of the day. But as they were discarded the oil was becoming rancid, so lime was thrown on it. Before even seeing the information,  one needs to soak them in an acid solution, then brush off the chalky precipitation.
One of the students, fluent in french told me the Dressel 20 are found everywhere in Germany, in Scotland, etc. probably pushing the numbers towards 50 millions!
Already that hill is incredible. And the work it represents, even spread over 400 years is mind boggling.
Clay needed to be collected along the shores of the Guadalquivir, the water, the wood to burn in the kilns, make the wheels, thousands of amphorae had to be turned, then fired, then stored.
The olive trees had to be tended, the olives picked, pressed. The amphorae filled, taken to the boats. I have estimated a boat loaded with a thousand amphorae  would have to leave every 3 days  during 400 years  from Betique, probably from Cadiz, follow the Spanish coast, the Balearic islands, shoot between Corsica and Sardenia onto Roma, just to build this hill of the Testaccio. And on each amphora, the weight of the oil, the verification, the dating, the name of the merchant.
This time it was not the Spaniards working, but a couple of Romans hired to dig a hole 2X6 meters by 4.
Professor Remesal, looking like Don Quixote told me, "Here, we the Spaniards are at home, we are in Betique ! The French would love to dig here, but they can't! "  Long live the E.U.


You just have to bend to pick a piece!

Professor Remesal was looking for "Hadrian's wall", a wall of amphorae unbroken between the old part of the hill, and the added ramp. We were piling up the bits in plastic boxes, soaking them in acid water, then transferring them to a container filled with water, and there 4 american slaves would brush all day long and clamored with delight when finding some epigrafia which would be put in a special box

Beta is the name of the merchant, under it the black roman numeral give the weight of oil

At the bottom of our hole we never found the wall of amphorae  you can see on the picture from the previous year. We found only the dating of the customs of the time of Commode, 189 A.D., 60 years too late.  I did enjoy finding the small pink covers which would close the amphora


I liked finding the Bizacena, and the Tripoli, the Orientales so refined compared to the Dressel 20. We were collecting the  "forma" besides epigrafia. The boxes were piling up and the Spaniards began reconstructing the puzzles by finding the collar, the handles, the epigrafia from a same amphora.
One would copy it on a transparent velum ; one would fill pages of details about the reconstructed amphora. They only have the right to take their data home. I took home a flu, as it was raining every other day, and an indigestion of Dressel 20!  They are everywhere: not a museum which does not sport one! You find them even on Riou!
As LF Gantes had claimed the main style of amphora on the island is Dressel 7/11. This is also a Betique production soon adopted and copied by the Massaliotes  for transporting fish. The wine jars are of italian red clay, the fine dishes a mixture of Campanian dishes, and local copies. The jars cover the hills around the cove, but proper surveying is needed to try to spot the vats required to macerate the fish in salt. An area of 300m2 has been occupied for 200 years recently. The  modern cistern gathering water from a tile roof could have been a  roman vat. As my father discovered the fishermen had to go to the other cove to get some water. They paved the area around the water hole, made it bigger. From what I have seen they were also going to the other side of the island to fetch some water. Were they tending goats too? There is some indication that on shore along the path going towards the oppidum  men spent some time in the hills in the many caves. Goats,it seems, have been around since the Greeks arrived.
When my father pulled up the first potsherds he thought them roman because they were of red clay. He was doing a small map of the area and he titled it Fontaine des Romains. After talking to Benoit, he crossed Romains and wrote Grecs. If we accept LF Gantes timetable of -50 to +50  technically it should be roman.
I should have said it is massaliote, or  massaliète. I am not sure why there is a new adjective. But the Greeks being who they were, could colonize a spot and remain greeks for 600 years. They were speaking greek in Massalia, and the wealthy Romans would eventually send their kids to the university there. The government was typically greek, the gods were Apollo and Artemis, their pottery was a copy of ionian amphorae and kylixes, they even sent money to Delphi and had a small temple built there, just like any other greek island or city-state
Massalia was an ally of Rome during the Punic wars, but being conservative they later picked Pompée's side and Caesar won. So he besieged the town with the help of Arles, which furnished boats in record time, and won for itself the right to be roman town with all the privileges attached. It is said that Caesar did not sack Massilia (for the Romans) because it had been an ally in the past. There is an interesting legend.. as he ordered his troop to cut down trees for the siege in a centenial forest nearby, the soldiers impressed by the stately trees, and the sacred ambiance were reluctant to offend the gods, so Caesar himself seizing an ax, knocked down a tree and said that the wrath of the Gods could fall upon him alone. This was in -49, and as he went on to conquer Gaul, Massilia was bypassed because of its location but also because the Romans would build new towns as in Acquae Sextius =Aix en Provence, where there were hot springs and a new harbor in Frejus  settled by the veterans of the VIII legion.
How long did it take the Massaliotes to start speaking latin? There was around 1900 a migration of Genoese coral fishermen, followed by people from the south of Italy. In Les Goudes one of the  most colorful persons is undoubtedly Irène Regio. 88 years old, she still can converse in Italian whenever she gets a chance, so I believe the Tuna fishermen of Riou still considered themselves greek. And since the amphora collar I retrieved in Fontagne is dated by LF Gantes -500 I think the name is appropriate. The water holes on the island, Well of the Goats where I found an etruscan bit, or Fountain of the Greeks look so much like a water hole I saw in Delos  that I am totally convinced to stay with the name.

1 meter above the bottom of the cistern. Left, a trench a that level revealed a paving of flats stones where 2 bottoms of amphorae were stuck in the clay


the other water hole on Riou, le Puits des Chèvres

Riou et les Calanques du docteur Albert



500 Years Ago, The Guards Of Riou Watch Tower Were Catching Falcons For The King Of France

Peregrine falcon  - (Photo Jean-Patrick Durand CEEP)
These birds are said to reach 180 mph  to catch a prey!  The watch guards would catch them in the nest, and they were offered to Louis XIII, Louis XIV by the local officials

Vigie de Masselhaveyra

Vigie de Rieu

 Vigie de Notre Dame de la Guardia

Watch Tower or Farotium ?

In the Roman times, Maïre was known as Immadras Positio by Strabon, because when you approach Massalia coming from Italy the island looks like a cape. It was thought that there was a pharos on the island. The most famous pharos is the one of Alexandria, one of the seventh wonders of the world.
A farossium is a fire lit on top of a height to communicate with another watch post. Alexandria sported a 3 story- building.
LF Gantès and his colleagues have found bricks identical to some found in  Greek Massalia at the base of one of the peaks, occupied now by a  construction dating from the 2nd World war. The clay is clear with the caracterictic mica inclusions used by the Massaliètes for about 700 years

In 1264  the town paid watch-men on the island of Maïre and Riou, in 1295 the accounting reports paying watchmen on Riou and in 1302 the men stationed on Riou communicated with Marsilhoveyra using a farossium or farotium
In the 13 century there were outposts along the southern shore of France from L'Espiguette in the Rhone delta all the way to La Turbie which is a monument to the glory of Augustus in the hills of Monaco, and Robert le Sage, Count of Provence sent one of his men, Robert de Millet, to make a study of the defenses of the coast in 1326. Where there were fortified towns they forced the outside houses to be destroyed, repairs to be made to the walls, and towers erected in several locations. The towers were round, with 1 meter thick wall, about 4 m in diameter. when possible there was a cistern, a room built above, and a roof platform to light the farotium. One of them built in 1352 on Cap de Cessiech was hit by lightning and rebuilt in 1589. The room is missing and the cistern because the guards were friars and they built a chapel near it. The ladder was all important, and we shall see that it was an expense for Riou also.

Farossium of Cap de Cecciech 1352 rebuilt 1589, still standing

La Vigie de Marsilhoveyre

The first mention of Farossium in loco de Masselhaveyra is in 1302. It is the watch tower which faces Riou on top of the massif de Marseilleveyre at 432m . The British destroyed it in 1814. They had taken the place of the Saracenes.
There were 2 guards who got communications from  the 3 men on Riou, passed it on to  the 2 at theTurris de Gardia above Marseille, who then relaid messages to the town. We know some of the names :

Pons de Servieres, Pierre Alfant  paid 4 florins 2 gros for the month of March 1408

Louis Negrel, his son and  Pierre Vailhe replace the 2 guards killed in  May 1527 or taken as slaves, and are paid 5 florins per month.

View of Riou from the summit of Marseilleveyre more than 3 kms away

Limited view of Jarre by cloudy weather

Glorious view of  the hill of Notre Dame de la  Garde which hides the old town of Massalia, so this spot is not the place from where you see Marseille  (Marsilhoveyre in dialect), but rather the place where the old Marseille was at the time the Greeks arrived.  Massalia Veterem  the oppidum of the  "Ligures "

This look out was temporarily closed in 1696, and the town paid 140 pounds to François Puget the son of Pierre Puget the famous sculptor, for the wood needed for the farot for 2 prior years.
It was closed definitely by the British in 1814.
In the 1900s the Club Alpin transformed the ruins by adding a second story, and made them into a refuge just as they did with another look-out at the Cap Gros.
The location of the farot is probably where a cross was erected first in 1900, to be thrown down by a storm, and rebuilt.

               Farotium site?                                                   Behind the ruin the islands of Riou and Plane

Only flames and smoke could actually be seen at such distances, but they must have taken quite a toll on the rare vegetation.
Forefront left the ruins of MarseilleVeyre look-out. In the background the red arrow points to the Refuge du Cap Gros, another look-out station already in ruins on 1904 maps.

La Vigie de Riou

In 1859, an archivist of Marseille, Bouillon-Landais, compiled a small document from the archives he was checking and he tells us most that we know about the island. That it started as a farot in 1295, and stopped operating in 1695.
It seems that there was before a chain of manned outposts along the shores, but after the roman empire collapsed, the whole place was up for grab, and it was not until Louis XI that there even was an attempt to organize the country. Even when they were the brothers of the king of France or maybe because of that, the counts of Provence were caught in a political maëlstrom  which involved Sicily, Naples, Rome, Savoy, Aragon, sometime allies, sometimes foes. This was the excuse for attacking and pirating and enslaving by everybody and anybody!
On the recommendation of Jean Courtin, I met this year with one of his colleagues Henri Ribot who lives not too far from Port d'Alon, in the quaint harbor of Sanary.  I was treated to an oustanding history lecture on our first meeting. I must admit that history and in particular the Middle Ages has never been my strong point, so I am hoping to have more information coming soon. He directed me to go to Cap Sicié where there is a tower still standing.
Until now the source about Riou was Bouillon-Landais, who published a drawing by Ferdinand Famin of the ruin in 1858


Knowing that the diameter of the tower is 4m my father deducted that in 1858 the ruin was still 6 meters high or 18 feet.
The V on the right is still pretty much the same as today, it is the door to the room where the guards originally would sleep. There is a half-circle opening made of bricks which are now scattered on the ground or below the tower, but the slit in the wall which today is still there is missing on the drawing. This depends on the location of the painter or photographer.
B-L finds the construction carefully constructed with a lot of care.
Today Philippe Rigaud (Des Iles Côte à Côte) finds it irregular and the mortar of mediocre quality.
I have a 100 year old house in Les Goudes where the mortar has become dust, so I think this wall standing since 1300 was well built. Degradation has been stopped, as it has been at the fort of Morgiou by someone who sealed the ruin.
B-L sees a cistern in the north, dug in the rock, with a stone vault covered with pouzzolane concrete.
PR sees it to the west, filled with stones.
I see it to the west, which makes me think that BL did not have a compass for he also places to the East, the 1442 cabin which is full north. He is 90° out. As it is stuffed with rocks and tiles it is difficult to see pouzzolane or a cistern even less to see it dug in the rock. In my opinion there is NO rock there and the vault was built to support the 1m tower wall which  otherwise would have been built over a void.
Chaumelin, a journalist who wrote about the island in the daily newspaper in 1858,  believes it is an oven!!


The tower as seen by F. Famin

The tower showing the slit

Cistern ? Oven?

In 1442 the town pays for a cabin ..rather small for 3 guys!

The archives differ also about the houses. I believe it was referring to constructions for all the Vigies. It mentions " houses with cisterns" being built, 4x4x3
BL sees one ruin.
PR sees 3. A rocky bar with a flat area where some haphazard blocks does not constitute a cabin. more an outdoor eating area if one judges by the artifacts.
Somehow this construction ordered in 1442 gets a frame in 1451  18 falquetas 4 traversas and 100 nails (C agus).
In 1480 new repair 1 florin 7 gros for  12 planks of good wood and 100 nails.

Among the other expenses there is a boat in 1522, then in 1528.
 There is a ladder "to get to the top" in 1484. There is a tree or mast in 1384 delivered to the island by Antoine Raymond for 10 gros in 1475, again in 1480  there is one taken to the Vigie by 4 men for 8 gros.

"Les gardes faisaient du feu tous les jours" The guards were lighting a fire everyday

Apparently if they did not light a fire they could not prove they were at their post, and risked a fine up to one month salary! But it must have been tough on the vegetation, unless they used it also for cooking.

The Vigie de Marseilleveyre is not easy to find, hence the need for a farossium

It is difficult to follow Bouillon Landais about the cistern. It is vaulted but it looks more like a support of the wall of the tower at a place where there is a void in the  rock.
More likely the Cistern of the Pic Occidental  and the tower were built at the same time. Use of similar bricks and roof tiles in both constructions, and the artifacts from the area around the Pic have been estimated by Mrs Vallauri from the 14th and 15th century On the way down there is the Pic Occidental Cistern. The vault is gone, made out of bricks similar to the ones which made up the window in the tower. One can see the ledge built to direct the water running down the face of the rock to the cistern




Dominique Stornel, Monnet Gilhan, Louis André  paid  5 gold florins each for the month of  1408

Hélion Castel, Petit-Jean Baissanet, Antoine Beaume are stuck on the island during the siege of Marseille by the  Connétable de Bourbon during 40 days from the 19th of August 1524. The others posts are empty. They are paid 4 1/2 florins.
These men are the probable victims of the attack of May 1527

Johan Painblanc, Baptistin Armelli, Honorat in 1577 receive 24 florins for taking falcons chicks from the nest.

Nicolas et Louis Tarrus,  father and son are the last guards during July, August and September 1695 for a pay of 45 livres.

Bouillon Landais realized that related in a sort of footnote he was reading the story of the murder or kidnapping of the 3 men on Riou and the 2 on MarseilleVeyre. In 1527 the guards were attacked, and when a boat was sent to the island to investigate, the boat was "lost" with its occupants.  The blame was put on the Turks. They were the allies of François I  earlier, but it is now thought that they used the time of alliance to spy  and make maps of the coast. We should also note that 3 years earlier it was the Aragonese who were attacking Marseille. The Arabs settled in Spain had pushed all the way north to Poitiers in the 8th century. Charlemagne battled them losing his nephew Roland in the Pyrenées pass of Roncevaux. Their incursions on rapid vessels called "fustes" went on. They would bring the sails down and sneak in, kidnapping  isolated individuals, giving them back against a ransom or taking them as slaves

The Turk

My father having restored the cistern in Fontagne was still looking for the spring. A few feet away and higher was a slab of rock. He decided to investigate the base and was digging away when he realized he was coming across some human foot bones. He unearthed a skeleton laying along the slab, his arms crossed over his chest, about 1 1/2 feet down. He brought Mr. Charles from the Anthropology museum of Paris, who declared it to be a male 35 years of age, about 400 to 600 years old and a macedonian. Since the Turks had attacked and killed the guards in 1527, and the man was missing the right leg under the knee, we concocted a story whereby this man had been wounded, caught the gangrene, was amputated (there was no peg leg). We nicknamed him the Turk


His teeth were worn out, he had cavities in his wisdom teeth, he was short one on the left, he was prognathous, his nose was bend to the left, and he had  scoliosis. He was 1.77 m which is rather tall for the time.
My father knew that, from the Vigie the guards could not see the cove of Fontagne, and the saracenes  whose ships were seen quite often in the area  at the time could hide there. He also concluded that the Fons must have disappeared in the middle ages, filled by the desintegrating rocks, for sailors would not have risked contaminating a water hole by burying one of their men right above it.

From the watch tower of Riou, guards could not see if the Saracenes were in Fontagne

During the summer of 2004, there was a "sensation" article in a local paper about a book written about St Exupery, the famed author of the Little Prince. Was he the man buried on the island of Riou?
They were pointing at the wrong place of burial, they were saying Escalon de Fonton had identified him. They had this story about a couple of Italian fishermen and a kid living on the island during the war, who had found a body floating with a parachute in 1944, and the man who had told the story, never wanted to talk about it again after that and now he was dead! I thought about calling the paper, and dismissed it as  a story written during the summer for entertainment.
I had stored the Turk next to a gorilla cranium my grandfather, Guy Maxime Albert, had brought back from Senegal when he was a doctor on ships going to Brazil. I had used them for comparative anatomy for my kids and grand-kids. One day the youngest one,  Giorgio came in and asked to see "the Man", then softly inquired if this was his grandfather!!  His older brother Roberto had made up a story to scare him.
St Ex had already made the news when Jean-Claude Bianco, a fisherman from Sormiou, had retrieved in his nets a silver bracelet inscribed with the name Antoine de St Exupery, New York. 
I had read the Memoirs of the Rose, the memoirs of his wife Consuelo, and so I knew that he, indeed, was living in the USA before joining the war. So, when the fisherman was attacked by the family as a fraud, it was obvious to me he could not be, because what local fisherman would be knowledgeable enough to make a fake "gourmette" with an american address? It had to be real. 
This spurred the owner of the Comex to launch a search for the plane in that area and eventually they did find it near the Conclus.  The fact that the bracelet had been at the bottom of the sea also meant that the body had not been buried on the island unless the hand had been separated during the crash, and hence would have been missing from the skeleton. Our skeleton had both hands!
In 1944  St. Exupery had joined the fight and was stationed in Corsica. He was 44, had survived many crashes and was considered too old to be a pilot, and it took General Eisenhower to allow him to fly missions. He was flying a P 38 or rather an F5B Lightning, unarmed, to take pictures of German installations. It is thought that having taken some incredible pictures of Genoa defense installations, he had decided for his swan song to go over Marseille and Toulon and do the same. A previous attempt had aborted due to an engine fire.  He is said to have passed out on the runway on take off the day before, so he was told this would be his last trip.
One can get more  technical details on Luc Vanrell's website  and Philippe Castellano's

In 2006 I met Helene Desvals who was making a video of vulgarisation about Les Calanques. She thought I should contact Luc Vanrell, who had commented that my dad had kept careful notes about his find, and he was hoping to locate them.
I thought he was one of those professional divers living most of the time in MarseilleVeyre, a beautiful spot on the shore accross from Riou but marred by the stench from the sanitation plant pouring out nearby. I was slow calling him. I was not sure I wanted to explain about the skeleton in my closet, mainly because of all the polemics around St Ex bracelet, around the Cosquer Cave.
 We finally met in september 2006 at a gathering in the hills to listen to Anne-Marie Durupt,a local historian talk about the "farots" or Medieval watch towers using fire to communicate. 
 With a couple of friends Luc had been investigating immerged plane wrecks, and found the serial number of St Exupéry's plane on a piece of metal. They also discovered there were 2 planes, and by identifying the motor they came to the conclusion they had not only a P38, but also  a Messerschmitt 109. More research into the archives led them to 2 german planes being shot down in that area in 1943. One of the pilots was prognathous. Unfortunately for Luc, his contact, the kid who in 1943 had been on the island and saw the floating body would not discuss it any further, maybe because he had been sworn to secrecy by the couple. He did mention a foreign uniform
, and a cockpit falling from the sky!
At first I had been annoyed. After meeting Luc and appreciating the amount of work he and his friends  had put in this detective work I was more sympathetic but I still disagreed with his conclusion. The man would have been buried  naked, because my dad had found it not even 20 years after the presumed burial, and there was no trace of material or buttons.
Even if the couple had taken the parachute and the clothes, why did they bother to bury a nazi who had been starving them for 3 years, when it was so easy to push him back in the water to the fish?
And what about the leg missing? Even if it had been ripped by the crash , the couple would not have taken his pants off with half a leg missing.. or would they?
And what about the teeth.. If the german pilot had been prognathous and if he had been wearing braces, wouldn't his dentist have taken care of the cavities in his wisdom teeth? And how could his teeth be so worn out if he was only 22.
When the Germans invaded the south of France they built bunkers every three feet. They kicked everybody but 4 persons out of  Les Goudes, one of them an old woman Mme Moulin to whom they gave some bones so she could make some soup for herself!  It is hard to believe that a couple could live on the island at that time. It would have been easier to survive but for the fact that if you started a fire they would have seen you from their look-out posts: The couple had to be allowed by the germans to be there and maybe fish for them. Maybe the fact that they were italians, helped in some sort of way. But then why not turn the body over to the germans.. unless they had cleaned him of valuables.  I can only see that reason for the burial and the reluctance of the "kid "to talk about the whole gruesome scene.

But what about if Charles was wrong in his identification, which seemed more and more likely. So  I gave Luc a vertebra for his team to conduct analysis and try to determine first if we were looking at a man 50 or 500 years old.
I came back to the US to take a course in forensic anthropology, and while learning the sutures, I realized that the skull had a particularity. There is above the nose the remnant of a suture which has normally  disappears in adults, a suture in the middle of the frontal bone. The book went on to say, that the metopic suture is found in some individuals today, not as a pathology, but as indication of a race. After the outburst from Gantès I had been wondering why Charles had identified the skeleton as a macedonian.. maybe this was my answer, for my Turk has 2 frontal bones. So I turned to Jean Courtin once again. He backed LF Gantes completely, and told me that Charles had been a walking encyclopedia, but he had invented a race "dolménique" from the Aegean, which had invaded the indigenous tribes  in the neolithic times, when, says Courtin, there are no dolmen in the Aegean,... so Charles is dismissed today. 
I will get back to the archeologists and their fakes, their muddying the water as there is more on Riou. However J. Courtin noted that there are many instances of metopic sutures in the neolithic algerians..

Sooo... not St-Exupéry, not a german prince, but maybe the descendant of a neolithic algerian who could qualify as a saracene. So until we had the results of analysis of the vertebra, as far as I was concerned R. Charles had a lucky intuition! or maybe he did know something. I was wishing..
March 2008: We have the DNA now, which is not common in the judiciary police database of Marseille, but we have no C14 datation yet.
Still, the DNA should rule out (or not) the german pilot.

St Exupéry and the Young Prince

Riou and the 2 islands of the small and big Conclus are a bit like the Bermuda triangle.. There are 4 ancient ship wrecks and 2 plane wrecks in about 10 acres. One of them is Antoine de St Exupéry's F-B5 Lightning, from the fateful day of July 31, 1944. The plane fell after being shot down and settled in the same area as the Messerchmidtt 109 of Prinz Alexis zu Bentheim-Steinfurt.
It took Luc and his friends about 8 years to piece all this together, with some help from the French government who decided that no one could go diving in the area for 2 years!
 It started with Luc Vanrell's father, Tony a scuba-diver, who had spotted a wreck, and kept suggesting to his son that maybe it was St Ex' plane, but all searches were in the Cote d'Azur area along the flight line, above his mother home, in the Alps where soothsayers would say he must be!
When Luc, who was diving at the Cosquer cave, surfaced and saw the Comex ship and the Horizon going back and forth behind the island, he figured something was up. A few days later he read in the paper that Antoine de St Exupéry silver bracelet was found in the nets of the Horizon.

During his week-ends off he went down 240 feet down to check on  "his " wreck, hide it best he could from Delauze's sonar and try to find the engines.

Thanks to the american WWII pilot Jack Curtiss who had access to Lockheed archives, the landing gear was enough to convince him he had the right sort of plane.

Jack Curtis assured Luc that he had 2 planes on his hands and 2 pilots! 
Jack was the key element in the identification of the  F-5B Lightning. Unfortunately he passed away before the whole story was put together.


Later someone found the serial number from Lockeed - 2374 L - which left no doubt as to the identity of the pilot for it was the only plane out the 5 which had never been discovered. This is when Luc started to look seriously into information about the skeleton my father had found, hoping it was St Ex.

It takes a Luc Vanrell to figure out  this gorgona is attached to a 1800 lb engine

Looking for the Lightning engines, Luc had spotted a gorgona on a stretch of sand. Knowing that they attach themselves to solid objects, he swept away the sand and found what looked like a 6 cyl engine.
Further down was the other bank. With the help of Delauze of the Comex the engine was retrieved. It had a shaft for a gun, and a strange emblem. One day Luc driving in traffic saw that emblem on a car in front of him..It was a Skoda.

Another day, a person showed up at Luc's shop and announced :"I am Lino von Gartzen, I am a diver, and an historian" Lino had access to archives in Germany. He found out that each cylinder had 4 sparkplugs, but not all were of the same make. At the end of the war Daimler-Benz was having their motors made in Tchekoslovakia, and Lino was able to trace that particular engine, which had been crashed, and rebuilt to a Messerchmidt 109 used in the south of France. It was to lead him to 2 planes lost at sea in December 1943.
One of them, the 12 red, was at the hands of Prinz Alexis Fùrst zu Bentheim und Steinfurt.

As Luc and I studied my pictures of the "Turk", we could tell that the skull was  prognathous and did not show any damage (St Ex had a very bad crash in South America which left him in a coma, and had very little chin). For Luc, it had to be the German pilot. When Lino contacted the actual Prinz Christian von Bentheim, he was told he and his brotherAlexis had to wear braces when they were young and they both were prognathous. For Christian von Bentheim who agreed to a DNA sampling, he was sure it was his brother before the analysis.

Alexis Fürst zu Bentheim und Steinfurt

If we believe the experts of today the results of the DNA are, without a doubt, a match between the man buried in Fontagne and his brother Christian Fürst zu Bentheim, who came last year to put a wreath and a ribbon with the coat of arms of his family at the spot Luc Vanrell indicated to him, behind the 2 Conclu islands.

Alexis Fürst zu Bentheim was flying his very first combat mission with an instructor, in a pack of 30 planes going against 100 B17 and 50 P38 on their way to bomb a submarine base in the bay of Marseille, December 2, 1943.

He was  shot down, and the bulkhead of his Messerschmitt 109 would have ripped his leg off at the knee, a common happening in that plane, where the feet of the pilot were held to the pedals. The reason they were told to eject was that the plane would sink right away! 

Dead at the age of 22. His  body floated and was retrieved by the couple of fishermen living on the island. Raoul Amari who was 10, was living with them on Riou at the time, and he was the one who mentioned it to Luc Vanrell after Luc discovered his first plane wreck in the Bay of Marseille, a Junker 88.

Lino continued his search for St Ex, making hundreds of phone calls. Having found Alexis von Bentheim, opened more doors for him, until one day talking to a pilot who had been in the south of France in 1944 he was told :"I do not remember much, but talk to Horst Rippert, he has all his head, and he knows"
When he called Horst Rippert, Lino von Gartzen was amazed to be told he could stop looking for who had shot "Exupery": July 31, 1944 he had been sent alone to intercept a low flying airplane near Toulon. He followed him for a while not understanding why he was meandering at such low altitude. He claims that the plane went down and no one parachuted out.
When he went back to his base after radio-ing his "victory", Horst Rippert heard the same day french and american radios were reporting that Antoine de St Exupery, the mythic aviator had not returned to Corsica.
Horst Rippert had learned to pilot after reading the books of St Ex. He was so distraught at having shot his idol that he kept the secret for 63 years.  And because he was sent alone to intercept one plane, it was not recorded in german archives as a victory.

Together Luc Vanrell and Lino von Gartzen brought an end to the mystery surrounding the disappearance of St Exupery, and a closure for the Bentheim family, who did not really know either what had happened to young Alexis. A young prince whose destiny was very different from the Little Prince's  written and drawn in New York by St Exupery. 

Alexis von Bentheim - Photos and portrait, courtesy of the Bentheim Family

And what to think, when you hear that Christian von Bentheim who, like his brother Alexis was in the Luftwaffe, continued to fly after the war and named his personal plane "Antoine de St Exupery"?!!

Christian von Bentheim, Lino von Gartzen, Luc Vanrell in front of the tomb of Alexis von Bentheim
"Returned 13 December 2009"

Jean Courtin who worked with Luc Vanrell at Cosquer Cave told me: "He will amaze you"
This is an understatement.
What a story.. Thank you Luc..



March 2008: Luc Vanrell has written a book relating his discovery of that plane, his search for the pilots, his conclusions. Along the way, Luc and his friend Lino von Gartzen, have found the german pilot Horst Rippert, who shot down the author of the Little Prince.

On July 31, 2009 Marseille will mark the 65th year of the death of St Exupery near the island of Riou with a ceremony and a museum in the name of St Ex will be created, which will house his plane wreck, his famous bracelet, and whatever mementos his heirs will graciously hand over to thank Luc Vanrell for his efforts.
Will Marseille be smart enough to give Luc Vanrell what he needs to also create a Cosquer Cave museum ? Both have his extreme diving talents  in common, and his passion for archaeology.
Can the European Capital of Culture of 2013 afford to miss recognizing what he is bringing to the table, and what kind of special individual he really is?

Luc Vanrell and Jean-Claude Bianco during the ceremony in Marseille City Hall.

A P-38 Lightning flew over Marseille in hommage of St Exupéry

Antoine de St Exupéry's bracelet, retrieved  in the nets of Jean-Claude Bianco by Habib Benamor
seen here with Luc Vanrell and J.C. Bianco at a ceremony at sea in 2004

"I wanted to scare him away, but he did not go" Horst Rippert
DVD made by Tangram for German television "Duel in the Clouds"


Let's go back to the network of watch towers dating from the Middle Ages

La Vigie de Notre Dame de la Garde

The fort of Notre Dame de la Garde  in 1754 painted by Joseph Vernet -  top of the holl on the right

This is the oldest of the three, one can see the bay of Marseille, and the town itself from it. There was one additional person in town who received the signals.
The latin name of Hill of La Guardia would indicate that there must have been a watchpost there when there was one on Maïre, again one does not see Massalia from Maïre. Later a chapel was built and eventually in the 19th century the basilica mimicking the marble stripes of the Florentine churches, with the gold plated Madona, la Bonne Mère, guardian of the town and in particular of sailors.

In 1408 the guards
Antoine Capel, Antoine Blancard  were paid 4 florins  for the month of March

The last "guetteur" or watchman of a tradition  which spanned some 2000 years amazingly enough (to me), was  my grand-father Charles Robert.  He  spent the first world war in the Marine Nationale, first on a destroyer, then as a hydroplane pilot. Only survivor of his team he was sent 2 years as an instructor to Arzew in Algeria. When he came back, he went to work for his father in law who owned a pharmacy and a drugstore in the heart of the old town.
In 1831, Captain Sanière and Mr. Camoin were "signalists" for a small company called Le Loyd Marseillais. When the owner died, in 1845 they created their own company La Vigie du Commerce, and took over the shack on the Fort de Notre Dame. Sanière and Camoin were relatives of Marguerite, Charles' young wife. This job suited him better than the drugstore, and he bought them out.

Vigie on the left of the Fort in 1845 - with the mast for signaling ships arriving in the bay- ACM

1925 - Vigie on the right

La Vigie du Commerce was located 2 rue de la Republique and in the building top right of the picture, behind the drawn bridge.  He would called the  Messageries Maritimes or the Cie Paquet after sighting their ships arriving in the Bay , which gave them time to prepare for unloading merchandises. According to his daughter, his clientele also included the hotels and nights-clubs, and the people who made a living carrying stuff from the ships to the docks.
 Radio and the ship pilots' house on the island of Frioul knocked down the little company.
At his death in 1962 the lease was not renewed .

The view from the location of the Vigie is almost as oustanding as the following pictures taken from the crown of the gold-leafed statue of Notre Dame de la Garde. However, in Massaliote times, one can see the difficulty in spotting any kind of signal unless there is a fire.

View from the crown of Notre Dame de la Garde of the massif de MarseilleVeyre with Maïre to the right
Cliché Luc Vanrell (Extreme Photography)

View between the spikes of  the crown of Notre Dame de la Garde of Massalia, the old town being the triangular promontory behind the rectangular Old Harbor.
Cliché Luc Vanrell (Extreme Photography)


A Few Artifacts

This beautiful specimen of a 16th century pisan bowl is the type the guards on Riou were using as dinnerware at the watch tower site (Drassm depot du Fort St Jean)


The green pitchers of the Citerne du Pic Occidental

hese pictures are a help to understand what the artifacts once  looked like !


Riou et les Calanques du docteur Albert


150 Years ago, Exploitation of the  Sablières And destruction of the etruscan and neolithic sites

In " Promenades artistiques" de Marius Chaumelin which were published in a daily newspaper in  1850, he gives some precious informations about the state of the island. There were wild goats and the foreman for the exploitation of the Sablière who lived in a cabin which was "not there 3 years before", was mad because the goats were devouring his vegetable garden. So he organized a kill by inviting some poachers and dogs. 8 goats jumped from the pass and ended alive in the sea where a fisherman picked them up. Then there remained a multitude of rabbits which could be pulled out of their holes by the ears, and grey lizards under every leaf!
Chaumelin goes hill climbing in the southern part and gets rescued by one of 4 or 5 workers employed in the sand pit. The 15th of August being the feast of the Virgin, the man had come to the top of the island to put a crown of wild flowers on a cross near the watch tower, which he shows to Chaumelin and calls it "The Tower of the Saracene, more ancient than Christ" .
Marseille was being modernized just like Paris was, by opening big streets following Haussman's gameplan. Originally it was to knockdown the cut-throat streets where the people could raise barricades and revolt as they had done every 10 years or so since the revolution. In Marseille it was what is now la Rue de la République, which went from la Canebière directly to the new harbor of la Joliette. Rows of appartment buildings went up. The stone needed were cut from the Cap Couronne which was the site of the Greek quarry. The sandstone is pink, contains lots of shells.
And the sand.. from Riou. 2 hollows were scraped to the rock. the ramp is still there; looking like the wall of a vanished fortified city. The village which vanished is a neolithic settlement.
Maïre, MarseilleVeyre  gave also, but not that much


The Small Sablière without its sand

The Big Sablière without its sand
One can see the level the sand reached before the exploitation

The guards of the CEEP,  Alain et Tim frame Jacques Collina-Girard du CNRS  and give a scale of the site
The construction is a ramp to load sand onto the barges

Industry has ravaged the area  of the Calanques since 1825. In the small village of Les Goudes painted in 1900, there was a lime factory, a sulfur factory, a lead factory, and a customs building on the left. Also the 4 bars which still exist.

Le Port des Goudes by Alphonse Moutte

There were also a lead factory, a chemical factory in Callelongue, another lead factory at Samena. The rubbish from the furnaces have been piled every where, and used for the road, the parking.
The building is a gun post already mentioned on 1694 maps when Vauban developped the defenses for King Louis XIV

Détail du tableau d'Olive  (mort en 1936) "Maïre" Musée Ziem, Martigues

The Army which was the owner of the island looked into establishing a watchpost on the island at the end of the 19th century but eventually did nothing and leased the spot where the workmen of the Sablière had built their shack first to a Mr. Bourelly in 1886, the in 1896 to Mr. Tronc with the right to hunt and fish  on the whole island. With a couple of friends he built a house, stairs, and hired a guard. Pipo Meïni was that guard. He built a small building on the other end of the island from where he could fish. He had a winch in Fontagne to pull his little boat up on the pebbles when the weather was too rough.

Pipo's fishing cabin at the point of Calamassana on the east part of Riou

His sister joined him with his grand niece, and they lived 10 years on the island. Alphonsine Meïni went on to marry Jacques Agrifoglio and their descendants still live in Les Goudes.
The Navy inherited the island from the army, and renewed the lease to the widow Tronc, until some time after the first world war. My father's notes say  until 1927.

Pipo's house in 1932. The gutter still took the rain water into the cistern (Cliche Dr.Albert)

Riou et les Calanques du docteur Albert

50 Years Ago Our Island In The Sun Near Les Goudes

Les Goudes

I have been told how lucky I was to have spent so much time on Riou when I was a kid. Nonsense! A trip to Riou was rare after the war. But it was an enchanted place probably for that reason. The luck was to have a quintessential *cabanon in Les Goudes and to spend summers there.  My grandfather loved fishing and he bought his place in 1923 (it was built in 1908). Every sunday he fell out of bed around 5:00 AM to indulge in a ritual with his pals which would go on until noon. The local artist "immortalized" him with the oars while in the background other people play at the other typical Marseillais past-time, the bowling game of La Pétanque. Of course by doing so he not only had a subject for his painting but also a buyer!
However, people seldom play that bowling game in the morning, while fishing is an early morning occupation, so it is a posed painting!
The luck was to be there after the war when the region had not been "discovered" and was still difficult to access, and Les Goudes was what Lucien Blanchard describes as "populo".
*Cabanon: at the beginning of the 20th century, a fishing or vacation shack in the region of Marseille, without water, light or any amenities.

La Rue du Louvre by the painter Rosello around 1950
Le père André with the urchin harpoon, le père Robert with the oars, le père Rimbaud with the net

Les Goudes:

A poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, the end of the road and its tramps, rusting steel, no one has described it better than John Steinbeck in Cannery Row.
I discovered him in 1960 and when I got to Monterey in 1966 it was still the american counterpart of Les Goudes, with still some empty lots, and rusty canneries. Peter Revson could not understand my delight at being there. Luckily my English was still poor enough, I did not have to explain to the nephew of the Revlon boss  why Steinbeck is for me the best american writer.
In Les Goudes there are no canneries, the fish is not that plentiful. But the Romans had something of the sort on the islands with the tuna.
What we had was smuggling!
Chaumelin, mentionned before, was not only a journalist, he was also a custom employee. There was a custom building in Morgiou, Sormiou, Les Goudes, there is a custom path which follows the shoreline. In many places around a big city like Marseille on the major roads leading in and out of the city there were check points called octroi where one had to pay taxes on any product taken to the market. There was one at the entrance of la Madrague de Montredon on the road coming from Les Goudes which was also used by the Germans to prevent people from going there. But a determined hiker could find a hundred paths to avoid these places, so Les Calanques are like a trait selected for by natural selection to develop smuggling.
At the end of of the first empire, the British were encouraging this, and Chaumelin said that they actually went up to the Vigie of Marseilleveyre and  destroyed it in 1814. They blocaded the south of France from 1804 until 1814 and smuggling spread. By their own account they were pirating oil, wheat, cattle and sheep.
After the II world war it was cigarettes under the control of the corsican mafia , but also all kind of foodstuff which would be thrown overboard from the ships  passing by.
My father mentions that Pipo's house when in ruin in the 50s was used by poachers and smugglers, so it was torned down.

But someone build this cabin a bit further, and a man appeared (after 18 months spent in jail for deserting in Algeria) and moved in, who called himself the guard of the island, who could greet visitors naked, who "allowed" local fishermen to go hunting rabbits, as long as they gave him rabbits, fish, or gave his friends a ride to the party.  He must have been reminded of what his duties were supposed to be, so he turned on his "friends" and helped the police get them. In  July 1971 this building was blown up. The local fishermen had learned to use dynamite!. In 1973 the maritime prefect (friend of his father) must have thought a poacher can make a good ranger and he did sign him in as a guard!  So the man came to ask my father for the keys of his cabanon in Fontagne (the GEAR lease was over by then and our small building had reverted to the Navy).


My mother and the guards of CEEP Alain, Yannick and Eric are getting ready to check on the puffins on the other side of the island during the night. Are missing Arnaud and Tim already gone to set up some concrete nesting holes.

Today, la Calanque de l'Aiglon in a pristine moment


Today, The Vallon de l'Aiglon
But up-close and personal my enchanted site looks like this

The roof of the vivarium is gone which was the landing area, the water is beautiful as ever

The extraordinary  red clay layer is still there through the fossils of the urgonien limestone
but the stairs leading to the vivarium and the dock are almost gone

Under the tamarisks, the stairs going down to the beach. The witch fingers planted by the Navy to hold the sand at the end of the 19th century have been pulled out because they are not indigenous to the island!
I miss their scent released by the sun,  mixed to the perfume of the sand lilies and the tamarisks. The top of the beach was green year round, and now we have pebbles and the flowers of the dead instead.

Sand Lilies

Witch fingers


Magical Cosquer Cave

My father died the year the Cosquer Cave was revealed to the public, in 1991. The region which fascinated him is unique, and the  world only underwater painted cave made it even more so, but he did not know.
More than 30000 years ago, during a glaciation, the sea level was very low, and Riou was not an island. One could walk from Riou, past the Conclu all the way to the Massif de Puget. During the following global warming, the ice melted and the sea level went up 360 feet and created the islands and the coves called Les Calanques, but it also sealed the entrance of a cave located now about 110 feet under the surface. The miracle is that the cave itself is located almost above today's sea level. And that someone found it!

In the 80s, a diver from Cassis, Henri Cosquer, exploring a long ascending tunnel discovered the cave which now bears his name. During his subsequent solo visits to his secret garden, he  had a frightening experience when his lamp went off, then eventually he went back with friends, one of them discovered a hand print, and he reported his discovery : This is the official story. It was marred by delays in reporting it, by the deaths of divers in the tunnel, and accusations of falsehood.

Jean Courtin was the director of the CNRS, expert in neolithic, and an experienced diver.  With his friend Jean Clottes, the  expert of ornate caves in France,  in the eye of a storm of polemics, he set out to explore what turned out to be a cave painted by Cromagnon men 27,000 years ago, and again 18,000 years ago. Their second book, Cosquer redecouvert, came out in 2006. There are over 50 hand prints in the cave including children's, 7 feet off  the ground which means they had to be on their dad's shoulders. This one is on the book cover.

It is the Cosquer encyclopedia. Jean Clottes had to become a certified diver in his 70's and the gruelling job of studying the cave was orchestrated by Luc Vanrell, who specializes in extreme photography and extreme jobs. He is still in charge of the cave and responsable for improving the technology which will be used to record every inch on film. 

Luc Vanrell, Jean Courtin, Jean Clottes under some of the hands painted on drapery stalactites.

The limestone is so porous and cracked  that there is no problem with breathing. In some places it is only 15 feet thick. Jean  Courtin says  that one can hear the engine of boats passing by!

Jean Clottes and Jean Courtin do appreciate how lucky they are in front of the panel of horses.

Cosquer being close to the water, it is quite different from Lascaux or Chauvet. Next to the usual bison, and deer, there are penguins, jelly fish and sea lions. And the cave in itself is as beautiful as it is rare.

Jelly fish


Sea Lion engraved

Pecten used as a lamp with charcoal remain

Penguins of Provence : 2 males posturing for a female (Photo Luc Vanrell)


Behind this wall is the room with the horses, about 15 feet in panel


There are 4 lime kilns on Riou. This is an attempt at dating them.

This looks like it was used recently at La Sablière around 1850 when they exploited the sand, and build the ramp to download the sand and the house. It is covered by vegetation and seems double. The most interesting thing is that it protected the area from the devastation and it is one of the spots which was inhabited from 6000BC until 50AD. However it is mentionned as an ancent kiln on the 1825 Matheron Cadastre


This one is probably the most ancient because it is the closest to the watch tower and the cistern. A proper dig is necessary because there is a mix of artefacts from the roman times onto today.

The best preserved in the vallon de Caramassane  exists in 1825, but  its twin in the next valley is not mentionned maybe because it is not as easily spotted

The end of the island has a limestone more suitable to make lime than the urgonian, and this might be the reason for these 2 kilns in that area. The artefacts found around are of Vallauris culinary and pottery of the Huveaune region, which places them in the mid  eighteen century.

Lime was used not only for construction, but was an important component in the making of soap, one of the big industries of Marseille since the 16th century. Riou being out of reach, we turned our attention to the Massif des Calanques. Lime kilns are everywhere in the hills. I had read that in 1571 one was at the limit of the property of the Sisters of St Sauveur. They owned the Calanques, and were selling them to the Prudhommes. Another archive document in 1777 was a contract to build 3 kilns in Marseilleveyre, Mounine and Calelongue. I set out to locate them in 2009.  The one in Calelongue has been bulldozed by the firemen.

Mounine- the path goes through it Marseilleveyre - the path goes through it too

In 2013, a fire ravaged yet another part of the National Parc. In the Malvallon among the dead pines appeared a kiln so big it has to be the one mentionned in 1571.

Close by the archeologists found  a camping site for massaliote fishermen, and maybe goat herders. The path on the right is the direct road between the shore and Marseille, via Mazargues, so it confirms what I already know,

In 2009 another fire in the Parc des Calanques was left to burn from above the fontaine de Voyre all the way up to the plan de Coulon. It revealed 5 kilns in a row 130 feet apart in a small valley. My friend hiker, Jean-Marc Nardini mentionned them to me in 2012. My father had done the map of the Calanques in 1927/1930. He noted only one in that particular valley. We assume the vegetation must have been  quite thick (there is water, for there is a big ivy plant still thriving) for him to miss 4 relics!  It is a very unassuming slope in a landscape of incredible cliffs as far as the eye can see in all directions! Next to it in the gorge going steeplydown to the Fontaine de Voyre, in the middle of the path is another kiln,  every one knows.

Hundreds of hikers, hill-climbers, hunters go by. Someone in the time of the emperor Aurelien (270/275AD) dropped a coin next to it. Now we know that the Romans scoured the hills around Sormiou. Similar coins have been found in Sormiou. but they were not the builders of the 5 kilns for on top of the wall next to a clump of red clay hardened by the fire a bronze coin with Apollon to the left and a passing bull on the reverse was laying there since about 120 years BC. We launched a research into antique greek kilns, and came up with nothing! We have been told over and over,"not even middle age, kilns are from the 16th". Again when I told the archeologists I was prospecting with in nov 2013, that we had some reasons to think these kilns are massaliotes, the first thing I was told was "kilns are from the 17th century". We are getting used to that, the batting average is not in favor of the experts!
We'll see what they will do with the information. But after seeing the total lack of interest for what happened on Cape Morgiou 200 years ago, I am sorry to say I do not expect much! But it does not matter, we know .. and Jean-Marc Nardini is the "inventeur des 5  fours à chaux antiques du plateau de l'homme mort". We know of 7 more candidates at this date.

Apollo was smiling on Jean Marc


Gun point is a more accurate name than the french Batterie, which normally implies at least 2 canons.
La Grotte St Barbe is a small hole  closed up by a wall almost one meter thick. It points in direction of Cape Morgiou. I have not been able to find any reference to this gun, if there ever was a gun, but the pottery sherds belong to the second half of the 18th century. Obviously someone spent some time  there. A storage jar, some Montelupi spirali verdi, some St Quentin pots. Towards 1744, the British were prevalent in the area and the coast was put on alert. They were present in that area until 1814.

Around the Massif des Calanques, in 1614 to combat the Saracenes, Morgiou, Cacao, Cap Croisette are said to be fortified. In addition there are the 3 watch towers of Riou, Marseilleveyre and Cap Gros. Riou will be closed in 1695, the other 2 by the British in 1814. Towards 1661 Vauban rethinks the defenses of Marseille. There is a batterie of 2 guns at Cap Croisette, another one on a map of the cove of Marseilleveyre, rather poorly drawn around 1740.
In 1793, after the revolution, Toulon's monarchists turn the town over to the British helped by the Spanish. This is well documented. Bonaparte comes south to inspect the defenses, he stays in La Ciotat for a month, then attacks the British in Toulon and kicks them out.
Then we get to a local legend. first, it is said that in a hurry to meet Desiree Clary in Marseille he does not attack  Morgiou which is also at the hands of the British,  with at their head, Lowe, who will be his jailer at St Helene.
Jean Courtin tells me that it was Captain Matthews, who then becomes an admiral and commands the ship which takes Napoleon to St Helene. I have found an admiral Mathews commandant of the Courageux in Toulon in 1744, but nowhere have I found him on Morgiou. in 1794 there is a Matthews in the British Navy but he is not an admiral nor is he the commandant of the Bellophoron or the Northumberland (Admiral Cockburn).
According to the Atlas of 1818, all the batteries are initiated by the Genie (instituted by Napoleon) at a rather late date 1812. Unfortunately there is no mention of the one on Riou, but worse there is no mention of the back-up of the 2 in Marseilleveyre.
Pipes from Holland, Pottery from the Huveaune, point to a site which could have been built as soon as 1675 as late as the  mid 18th century.. In 1812 they are recommending to build a tower to back up the 2 batteries, and never mention the third post in the hills which must have been built before.. the pavers 5" thick point to galerians.

An incredible stroke of good luck has delivered a copper coin called a "double tournois" (a two-pence) dated 1618, about the time Louis XIII comes to Morgiou to fish tuna!
This early date for the Back-up is validated by some of the culinary pots identified by Jean Ferdinand Petrucci as 16 century Vallauris "toupins"

In 1718, the Sieur Michelot, captain of a royal galley makes a map, and calls out a batterie du Four à Caux,

In 1773 the Sieur Bresson calls it Batterie de St Michel d'Eau Douce, but shows it crossing fire with a batterie on the island of Riou

This coin, a liard from 1693 in the name of Louis XIIII confirms this battery was built before Napoleon's time. Most likely at the time Louis XIV and Colbert decided on making Marseille a port of galleys to trade with the Middle East.


At the top right of the picture, the battery of Mounine built in 1812. After spending 3 days in Vincennes in utter frustration I finally found a report where a man claims that they built the path from Calelongue with retaining walls, so they could come on horseback. The batteries are supported by sea, and there is no water. This at least seems to be backed by the map drawn by Matheron in 1825 which shows a path from Mounine to St Michel d'Aigue Douce, where there is water in the grotto.

From 1804 to 1814 the British are blocading the south of France. They hide behind the island of Riou where one of the coves is called la Calanque des Anglais to this day.
November 17, 1810, a decree of Napoleon orders the building of batterie on Morgeon (Morgiou). A fourneau à reverbere is also to be built.

 March 31, 1813 the British send 200 men from Sormiou to the Cape and take 16 prisoners, destroy everything, throw the canons in the sea, and take 10 boats anchored in the cove of Morgiou.
The walls are rebuilt, but before they are re-armed on May 2, the British fleet guns the place, and they take it again, destroying the kiln to heat up the canon balls, and the mortar (Isaac Shaw will be wounded in the explosion) and capture 7 commercial ships.
In april 2012, we retraced the attack of March. On the way from Sormiou over the hills; we found a spot littered with uniform buttons of the 62 and 145 regiments, and various artefacts  which make us think the few men garding the post were probably the first killed in an ambush before the attack, because they had a commanding view of  Sormiou.

From the Cancéoù, the view of the fortified Cape Morgiou. The diamond shape is the excavation for a Tour modele which never was built


Probable path of the British troops Ceramic pipe at the post
Uniform button of the 62nd regiment Silver coin dated 1766, still in use in 1813
The big battery on Cap Morgiou & St Pierre The smaller battery
La Gorguette - Landing spot in May 1813  St Pierre landing spot in May -
In the background the Cancéou Hill

Then in August they attack Cacaù in a similar manner by landing 200 men in Port-Pin. there also, the guns are thrown in the water where they remain today. Some of the guns of Morgiou have been retrieved by Albert Falco famous for being the right arm of Captain Cousteau on the Calypso. Some are still  in the sea; 100 feet down; not far from  the entrance of the Cosquer Cave.

 Canon of 24 and 8 from Morgiou. Bombard balls 

Cacaù (Photo Jean Claude Cayol)

Morgiou - Octopus garding a canon ball

 Morgiou - Canon of 36 (Courtesy J Joncheray)

In 1814 the end of the Empire will bring about the end of the Vigies of Marseilleveyre and Cap Gros as well.

In the archives of the British Navy one can read the reports of the attacks by the British of the positions on Morgiou, Cap Cacaù Cassis, and Ile Verte. They are very similar to the french report, hence quite credible:

  • The boats of VOLONTAIRE, UNDAUNTED and REDWING, under the command of Lieut. Isaac SHAW of the VOLONTAIRE attacked Morgiou, a few miles east of Cap Croisette, on the night of 30 March.
    They landed at Sormiou and marched over the hills at daylight to attack two batteries from the rear.
    After some resistance from 40 troops they were carried and five 36-pounders in one, and two 24-pounders in the other, were thrown into the sea. A mortar was spiked and all the ammunition destroyed. Other boats, though opposed by two field pieces, brought out 11 vessels of between 25 and 45 tons laden with oil and destroyed two others. UNDAUNTED lost one marine killed and two marines severely wounded.
  • The French immediately started preparations to remount the cannons in the batteries so Capt. MOUBRAY in REPULSE, learning of this from Capt. WALDEGRAVE of VOLONTAIRE, sent in 100 marines from his ship on 2 May to join those from the frigates to finally destroy the enemy works. They were led by Lieut. SHAW because of his local knowledge and, covered by REDWING and launches with caronades, they landed and drove back a detachment of the 4th. battalion of the 1st. regiment of the line, the enemy losing at least 12 killed. The batteries, gun mountings and the 13 inch mortar were blown up (Lieut. SHAW was wounded by the explosion) and six vessels, variously laden with salt, wine, leather, flour and bricks, were brought out. Capt. USSHER, noticing that they were fastened to the shore by hawsers from the masthead, went along side one vessel under a heavy fire of musketry from soldiers on the cliffs. As he and his boat's crew scrambled uninjured aboard the prize, his gig filled up to the thwarts.
    UNDAUNTED lost one seaman, L. NOSKI, killed and two seamen, John DALE and J. SULLIVAN, wounded.
    The following day UNDAUNTED chased a ship under the guns in the Bay of Marseilles and kept up an animated exchange of fire while Lieut. William OLDREY and a boat's crew brought out a brig lying at the entrance to the port.
    On 7 May UNDAUNTED's boats captured two coasting vessels out of a convoy and drove several ashore.
    A squall prevented them taking the schooner escort although they gave chase for as long as they could, but Lieut. OLDREY was dangerously wounded and his crew had also suffered.
  • Early in August UNDAUNTED and ESPOIR discovered a number of vessels at Cassis, about 8 miles east of Cap Croisette. Capt. USSHER left ESPOIR to blockade the port and sailed to meet Sir Edward PELLEW off Cap Sicie. He returned with REDWING, 200 marines and a detachment of boats from CALEDONIA, HIBERNIA, BARFLEUR and the PRINCE OF WALES. Contrary winds prevented the attack for several days and when it took place on the 18th. UNDAUNTED could not take up her planned anchorage abreast the town.
  • Four batteries defended the entrance of the bay and two French gunboats were moored across the entrance of the mole but REDWING and ESPOIR swept in under heavy fire to within 50 yards of the town to cover the landing. The marines under Capt. Jeremiah COGHLAN, RN drove the French before them at the point of the bayonet, through the batteries to the heights behind the town.
    Lieut. Hunt, RM being the first to enter the citadel by a ladder which broke, leaving him alone on the parapet.
    The boats under Capt. SINCLAIR of REDWING then entered the mole and brought out two gunboats and 24 merchant vessels and destroyed one gunboat and one tartan A small party under Capt. SPENCER of ESPOIR in a windmill at the back of the town covered the re-embarkation which was accomplished without any of the houses or private property being touched.

1813 Capt. Richard Hussey MOUBRAY, Mediterranean. On board of the REPULSE
On 2 May the boats of REPULSE, VOLONTAIRE and UNDAUNTED brought out nine laden vessels from the port of Morgion while marines from the same ships were landed and blew up some batteries in the vicinity.

  • 1813 Sir John Gordon SINCLAIR, Mediterranean. On board of REDWING
    On 30 March 1813 REDWING was with UNDAUNTED and VOLONTAIRE when 14 merchantmen were discovered in Morjean, a small harbour between Marseilles and Toulon.
    Parties of seamen and marines were landed at Sormion and climbed over the hills to attack the two batteries covering the port from the rear.
    Five 36-pounders in one and two 24-pounders in the other were thrown into the sea and all the ammunition destroyed.
    Eleven vessels laden with olive oil were brought out and the others destroyed.
    REDWING covered marines from the same ships when they landed to destroy batteries and bring out six vessels from Morgion on the 3 May.
  • A squadron consisting of CALEDONIA, HIBERNIA, UNDAUNTED, PRINCE OF WALES and REDWING attacked Cassis to the west of Marseilles at the beginning of August.
    Four batteries covered the entrance to the bay and two gunboats were moored across the entrance of the mole.
    Capt. SINCLAIR swept his sloop in under heavy fire to cover the marines who, under Capt. COGHLAN, drove the French from the batteries at the point of the bayonet.
    The boats under the direction of Capt. SINCLAIR then entered the mole and brought out twenty-four settees and tartans and two gun boats.
    One petty officer was wounded in REDWING.
Napoleon will board the UNDAUNTED  under the command of Isaac Shaw at St Raphaël on his way to his first exile on the island of Elba in 1814
In 2012 we were looking for the 4 soldiers killed in the attack of March, and the 12 killed in May.  The Hotel Dieu in Marseille  admitted some of the wounded who died within one week.  Joseph Viel, 20, Louis Vigneron,20, Jean Augustin Vincent,21, Jean Lavernas,20. In May Pierre Ducos,20, dies also.
The cemetery next to the hospital was replaced by the Gare St Charles at the end of the 19th century. We do not know if the killed were buried there, but we have not found any trace of them.
We were not able to account for the 7 guns the British reported thrown into the sea. Albert Falco retrieved  one 36-pounder and one 24. A friend, a diver who lives in Sormiou took us in his zodiac to show us where there are 4 of them at the end of the cape. One 36 is missing.
We had better luck with the furnace. After visiting Lerins where some of these devices are still standing, I was able to identify the V shape bricks for loading the canon balls into the furnace; They lay on top of a pile of rubble, and then under the bushes we spotted 3 carved slabs of rock. They were obviously to roll the heated balls towards the guns. The "goulotte " is intact. We also found some pieces of steel littering the area which must be what remains of the mortar which was blown up, wounding Isaac Shaw.

Guide for the canon ball





Historic Dates  and  Archaeologic Sites of the Calanques and the Islands. In yellow artifacts.
Dates from "Les Iles Côte à Côte" and Bouillon-Landais "L'Ile de Riou"



Ancient Cardial  : sea level at -30m  Entrance of the  Cosquer cave already submerged.




Etruscan and Greek

Puits des Chèvres:Etrusque  Massaliete,Italique
Sablière: Etrusque et Attique
Fontagne: Mass

  -49 Siege of Marseille by Julius Caesar.To build rams, and towers, he orders to cut trees from a nearby sacred forest, and cuts down the first tree himself to reassure his troops and to ward off the Gods wrath
Arles builds for him 18 boats in 6 months and will be made into a Roman City with all privileges attached
  -50 à +50 Fishing & Salting Industry on Riou, Plane, Ile Verte et Embiez Puits des chèvres: Mass, Ital
Fontagne ; Mass, Punique Italique,Betique
  +300 Itinéraire d'Antonin Immadras Positio =Maïre Farot
  1164 Période Vicomtale - Evêque possède les faucons de la terre majeure jusqu'à la Colonne, et les Vicomtes, les faucons des Iles.  
  1165 Mention de Pumachi (Pomègues)  
  1182 Mention de Sancti Stephanum (Ratonneau)  
  1211 Mention de Pumaguin (Pomègues)  
  1264  Marseille pays watch guards on the coast and the islands of Maïre and Riou  (B1501 f°60 ADBdR)  
  1295 First Mention of Riou watch tower Vigie de Riou  registre de la cour des comptes Rubey Philippe le Bel roi de France
30 Juin 1302 Réseau de farots entre l'Espiguette(Crau) et la Turbie
Farossium in loco de Masselha Veyra quod respondere debet ad insulam de Rieu
  1318 All fishermen going to Planier are required to be armed and to take rocks to build the tower.  
23 Juin 1326 Hughes de Conchis Viguier à Marseille
Robert de Millet does the inventory of farotiums
Robert le Sage, Comte de Provence, Roi de Naples
  1331 Interdiction to hunt in  Pomègue , Galiana and Riou
(BB17 f°113 ACM)
  1320,26, 29,1330
Délibérations prises en conseil à Marseille préconisent d'établir ou rétablir les farots, en particulier à Riou
(BB11 à 23 ACM)
Guillaume de Sabran Seigneur de la Tour d'Aigues
  24Juin 1372 Magnifique Homme Jean des Anins de Caramanique promet de payer les gardes, mais ne fait rien
Eglise de Marie de la Garde
Reine Jeanne
Threat from the Catalans
  1376 Gregoire XI takes the papacy back to Rome- stops in Port Miou (tempest and he was sea-sick) and les Embiez Great,great,great.. grand uncle of Dr Albert
  1385 Maïre has a tower and a farotium  ; L'insula de Rieu is described as custodibus de Rieu CC194f°24 ACM Cruche pisan rosé
  1395 Antonius Maurini, Laborator dal frati Francisco heremine de Nocheria de Neapolis, unam cavernalam siove balman de roca, sitam in territorio Massilie supra portum Massilie Veteris Règne de Louis II, roi de Naples et de Sicile, de Jerusalem,Comte de Maine et de Provence, Duc d'Anjou
  1397 Oct Dictam barchiam fuit perfundata et distruicta
BB129 A fol ADBdR
Sur l'emplacement des farots de Riou et de MarseilleVeyre
351 E 396 f°208 ADBdR)
20 fév 1404 Les syndics demandent remboursement par notaire  
  1384 à 1464 Pendant 80 ans la paie est de 5 florins par garde et par mois Pons de Rassaud Viguier
  20 Avril Augmentation à 4 florins 1/2  jusqu'à Mai 1527  
  1442 Contract between  Conseil de la Ville and a mason to build houses 4x3x3m high with basement and cistern where there are roduncula montis de Rieu  
  1451 18 falquetas, catre traversas, C agus for building cabanas (poutres fourches et clous pour charpente)
CC468 f°27  ACM
  1452 The Prudhommes having advanced 1200 florins to King René, Count of Provence for the conctruction of the Fort St Jean, are reimbursed with the right of fishing in Morgils (Morgiou)  
  1464 5 florins par mois par garde  
  1472 Watch tower closed for the winter to save money. "Il a plu au conseil que les gardiens restent jusqu'à la Toussaint "  
  1480 4 florins
Ladder for the tower
6 Fév 1502 Cristobal Colon in a letter to the king and queen ofAragon and Castille mentions Pomègue, one of the 3 Marseille islands  
  25 Jan
François I is received at La Plaine(Campus Martius ou le Plan St Michel) He will order the construction of the Chateau d'If (made famous by the novel of Dumas, the Count of Monte-Cristo) Bols pisans à sgraffito
Bols Frejus
Cruche Huveaune
A boat of 15 florins is brought from Barthemeu Florentin
A saracene fuste is seen near Calla Serena (Plane island)
Céramique commune grise et brune
  1524 Charles Quint between Toulon et Marseille
Siege of Marseille by the Connétable de Bourbon during 40 days from  19 Août.
The guards of Notre Dame and MarseilleVeyre are withdrawn in august and september(Riou guards are stuck there)
Helion Castel, Petit Jean Baissanet, Antoine Baume
  Juin 1527 8 fustes turques venues en razzia enlèvent les gardes, plus un lahut monté par des marins du quartier St Jean  Valbella II 178  
  1534 es venguda una barqua de la Sieutat de Martegue que a vist dos fustas defora de Rieu  Lettre de Cassis CC543 L471 ACA  
  1540 Seres Avisas que aud vespre pres de la yslas de Rieu las fustas au pres tres barcas  Lettre de Marseille CC 549 L581 ACA  
  1564 Rhius in qua specula custodibus murita  JR de Soliers Q50  
  5 Nov
Charles IX with his mother Catherine de Medecis received at La Plaine  
  1577 Johan Pain Blanc, Baptistin Armelli et Honorat.. are paid 24 florins  for 9 faulcons which thse guards have captured on Riou Riou. Faucons niais taken in the nest, in April or Mai Bol A Stecca Pisan
Lustre Métallique Valence
Bleu ligure à pate blanche
  1585 Purchase of a liban (well rope) to climb the Riou towers to catch falcons to be sent to the grand prieur Henri d'Angouleme, governor of the province  
  1584 Aymar de Champorcin Herbages  
  1589 Vente des herbaiges et pasturgaiges du Frioul, Maïre and Riou (ACM BB 51 f°25 et 26)  
1602 6 falcons sent to the  Duc de Guise, governor of Provence Culinaire Biot-Vallauris à la Vigie, Citerne, Four à Chaux, Beaume Fraiche
  1612 JB de Village puts goats on Riou  
  1614 François de Caradet herbages
Edification of a fort on Morgiou, Cacau and Cassis
  20 juin 1617 Letter from Louis XIII  to the consuls of Marseille to thank them for gifting him some falcons  
  8 Nov
Louis XIII fishes tuna with a silver trident in Morgiou cove, after renewing the rights of fishing the Prudommes had bought from the count of Provence, Réné d'Anjou  
  1628 Price of a falcon = 2 livres 45 sous  
1631 Vigie de Rieuls a une tour surmontée de fumée et de flammes.
P.J. Bompar
  1636 4 guards on Riou - boat is pulled on sand.  
No guards on Riou. They send Antoine FERRI, valet of the first consul of marseille to get the falcons  
  Mai 1641 They send Alexandre DROUIN  
  1661 Raid by Arab pirates at Calelongue and the isles - 60  fishermen from the Catalans cove are taken as slaves  
They send Jean DELPHIN and Claude ROUBERT for the falcons  
  1689 There is only one guard on Riou  
  1695 Nicolas TARRUS and his son Louis are paid 45 livres for July, August and September
Closure of the VIGIE de RIOU

Vauban arms the Littoral (Batterie de St Cyr les Lecques)
Batteries of Marseilleveyre - Riou (?)
Pipes and pottery of les Ateliers de l'Huveaune at Marseilleveyre
XVIII 1715 Death of Louis XIV  
  1720 During the plague, priest, fishermen, crew of the St Antoine are said to have found refuge in Riou Cruche verte Citerne
  1744 The marquis de Belle-Isle  asks for a farotium to be established at Port d'Alon  
  1774 Death of Louis XV  
30 March
The British attack the batteries of Morgiou and throw the canons in the sea.  
  1814 Closure of the VIGIE de MARSEILLEVEYRE, and CAP GROS Greek ceramic
Pipe early XVIII, pottery de l'Huveaune
  1850 Construction de la cabane du Monasterio  
  1853 Exploitation de la Sablière par 4 ou 5 ouvriers d'après Chaumelin
Pacage de Chèvres -  Lapins - Lézards - Faucons
Barques catalanes au Monasterio pour pêcher le corail
3 squelettes exhumés à la Sablière
  1859 Bouillon-Landais  
  24 -08
L'Etat loue baraque,terrain de 296m2, droit de chasse et de pêche à Mr. Louis Tronc, négociant, secrétaire du Casino de Nice, résident à Marseille.  
    Pipo Meïni  gardien de l'Ile.Les noms sur le mur de la terrasse de la baraque reconstruite  sont Tronc, Zaphirolos et Mirbelli.
Treuil à Fontagne, Cabane pour pêcher les blades au bout Nord de Calamassana
Décret affecte Riou Jarre et Plane au Département de la Marine  
Renouvellement du bail 3,6,9 au même Louis Tronc pour 35F
13 Rue Paradis Maison Viale, Marseille -Caution solidaire de Jules Pignet
  1 Oct
Renouvellement du Bail à Mme Veuve Tronc 3,6,9 pour 35F mêmes conditions (Caution solidaire de Mr Jules Marie Charles Pignet)  
  1920 Navette Marseille -la Plage d'Or de Riou avec passerelle au vivier  
  1932 Maison des Troncs, Tamaris, Vivier. Cliché Dr Albert  
  Dec 2,
 Prinz Alexis Fürst zu Bentheim in a Messerchmidt 109 is shot down near Riou and the Conclu islands  
  1943 Corpse of a foreign pilot with parachute ,flotting near the  Conclu found by an italian  couple living on the island with  Raoul Amari who was 10 at that time  
  July 31, 1944 11:00 Antoine de St Exupery is shot down by Horst Rippert in  his P.38 Lightning F-5B 223 southeast of  the  Conclu.  
  1947 Dr. Albert builds a dry wall refuge under a rock in Fontagne  
  1955 Combinatie- Police gives chase to boat involved in cigarette contraband  
  1962 End of the Vigie at Notre Dame de la Garde  
  1962 Dr. Albert restores the cistern of Pic Occidental. He realizes that the wall in an alluvial cone in Fontagne must be the water hole which gave its name to the cove  
Lease of the island  granted to the G.E.A.R. by the Navy to do plantation and related works  
  1964 Restoration of the  Citerne - Discovery of the skeleton.  
Map of the Island,scale: 1/2500 - Silo  
End of the Map of Riou  
  1968 Fouilles Courtin dans la Sablière  
  1970 Courtin digs in  la Sablière  
  1971 Two small cabins in the cove of Monasterio are blown up by someone not happy with the so called guard of the island  
  17 sept
Ordre from the Prefet Maritime Brasseur Kermadec for Jean Throude to be guard of  Riou in charge of getting rules respected: No transistors, no nudism, no hunting, no fire arms. No fire, no camping unless exceptional authorization. The guard disregarded all the rules  
  1974 Courtin ; Escalon de Fonton  
  1977 Courtin  
  1990 Gantes  (Des Iles Côte à Côte)  
  1991 Peintures de Cosquer revealed to the public  
  Set 28, 1991  Georges Albert  
  1992 Conservatoire du Littoral becomes owner of the Archipel of Riou  
  1998 Habib Benamor spots St Ex' silver bracelet in the net of the Horizon  
2000 Luc Vanrell declares the Lightning discovery  
  2003 Back to Fontagne  
  2003 2734 L : Identification of the P38 Lightning as St Exupery'sd>  
  May 2006 Website  
  March 2008 ST Exupery: L'ultime secret. Luc Vanrell and Lino von Gartzen reveal who shot St Exupery  
  April 2008 DNA analysis reveals the skeleton of Fontagne to be the brother of Christian zu Bentheim  
  July 31, 2009 65th anniversary of St Exupery disappearance  
  8 August 2009  Gisele Albert  
  Dec 13, 2009 Alexis von Bentheim is back in Steinfurt  

In these waters  Antoine de St Exupery in a F5 Lightning and Alexis von Bentheim in a Messerschmidt 109  died 8 months apart

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