A remarkable celestial event was witnessed by a physicist in Pau, France in the late 1700s. It was in the Annals of Physics, (vol. 13), Professor Baudin wrote, in part:

"The 24th of July, 1790 had been a very warm day; in the evening the air was calm and serene, and the sky completely cloudless. The moon seemed very bright, and I was walking at about half past ten o'clock with M. de Carris Barbotan in the court of the Mormes Castle, when suddenly we saw a bright white light which darkened the moonlight. As we looked upwards, we saw almost a sphere of fire in our zenith, larger than the moon, with a 5-6 meter longer tail, which became narrower from the ball. The ball and tail were dull-white, the tip dark, almost blood-red. The meteor drew with great speed from south to north. Two seconds after we had seen it, it was divided into several pieces of considerable size, which we saw dropping in various directions. About five minutes afterwards, a violent thunder hit, or rather an explosion, as if several large artillery shells had gone off; the air pressure was so strong that the windows were shaking in their frames. We went into the garden. We then heard a dull roar, which seemed to extend along the chain of the 15 distant Pyrenees. At the same time a very strong sulfur smell spread, and soon a fresh wind rose. It was soon confirmed a lot of stones had fallen. A few stones fell beside houses, in the courtyards and gardens."

When the editor of the Journal of Science in Montpellier published a similar report, a colleague responded that this was wholly absurd and demanded official testimony. When such official testimony was provided by the mayor, who also supplied a notarized document insisting 300 citizens had witnessed this event, the aforementioned editor then wrote, “How sad, is it not, to see a whole municipality attempt to certify the truth of folk tales…a false fact, a physically impossible phenomenon.”

When Professor Baudin’s description was republished in La Decade, the editors appended a footnote which stated, in part, “The author of the memoir appears persuaded that a fall of stones occurred; he would have been more philosophical to doubt the fact. In spite of so many pretended examples of showers of stones, we do not place any faith in them.”

While most of the world believed in the late 18th Century that the Barbotan meteorite shower was a collective delusion, Professor Baudin, Madame de Carris Barbotan and approximately 300 others profoundly knew otherwise. It would take a more than a decade before French scientists acknowledged that rocks sometimes do fall out of the sky. One of the most historic meteorites of all time, a Barbotan specimen reputedly killed a herdsman after puncturing the roof of his hut, but as this event occurred in an era when it was not believed rocks could fall out of the sky, scant attention was paid to the decedent — as well as the meteorites themselves. While multiple towns reported having been pelted, very few meteorites were recovered.

This partial slice has one edge of fusion crust. Metal flake is suspended throughout a variegated matrix whose hues range from cocoa to khaki.

Christie's would like to thank Dr. Alan E. Rubin at the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles for his assistance in preparing this catalogue.

51 x 52 x 2mm (2 x 2 x 0.1in.) and 11.22g
Collection of Alain Carion, Paris
Brought to you by

Related Articles

Sorry, we are unable to display this content. Please check your connection.

More from
Deep Impact: Martian, Lunar and Other Rare Meteorites
Place your bid Condition report

A Christie's specialist may contact you to discuss this lot or to notify you if the condition changes prior to the sale.

I confirm that I have read this Important Notice regarding Condition Reports and agree to its terms. View Condition Report