IMCA Insights – June 2012
The Meteorite de Monferre (France)
by Jean-Michel Masson,
translated by Anne Black
the evening probably around 10pm, during the summer of 1923, the
inhabitants of the village of Treville in southwest France between
Toulouse and Carcassonne observed a large fireball crossing the sky. The
bolide was lying from south to north and passed just east of the
village. A loud whistle pierced the night as the bolide illuminated the
sky. At the farm “Le Graulet”, Leon de Bataille then 16 years-old, was
closing the windows when he heard that loud whistling and saw the
fireball fall right behind a small hill only 400 meters from the farm.
During the following few days Leon de Bataille and some friends searched
for the object fallen from the sky but without success.
About the same time just a little north of Treville, a farmer found that
a few tree stumps in the middle of his vineyards had been burned. He
figured it was simply the result of lightning but the event stayed in
In 1966 after a regrouping of lands, Georges Krivobokow received a new
parcel of land as a lease and his brother Michel went to work digging
out tree stumps with his plow and then a stump bent the blade of the
plow. He took it to the local blacksmith who straightened it and went
back to work. Again a tree stump bent the blade; again he went to the
blacksmith and again he went back to work, but when the blade was bent
for the third time he decided to go work on a different field. All was
going well for a while but then again something bent the blade. This
time it had not been done by a tree stump but by a large stone. Since
that stone was right in the middle of the field and very much in the way
he asked his brother Georges to help him get it out. Neither one of them
had ever since a stone like this one; it was rust-colored and covered
with some kind of crust. They rolled that stone all the way to the
southern edge of the field and since the village had just dug out a
ditch along there, they just left it there. But Georges remembered the
old story told by Leon de Bataille and immediately wondered if that was
the result of the fireball that had illuminated the sky of Treville some
43 years earlier.
In 1966 Leon de Bataille was the mayor of the village of Treville, in a
privileged position to witness those facts.
GPS: 430° 23’ 22 N, 10° 57’ 44 E.
(left) and Jean-Luc Billard (right)
on the site of the discovery
(Photo courtesy of the author)
then went to the owner of the field, Madame Gil, to tell her about the
big stone that was much in the way on the edge of the field. Madame Gil
refused to have it moved and Michel didn’t want to do it either so the
stone stayed there for four years. But Georges was still intrigued and
decided to get it out of there. He placed a cart in the ditch right
below the stone and with the help of his brother they rolled the stone
onto the cart and took it to the farm “La Gravette” where they were
living at the time.
and the meteorite, circa 1972
(Photo courtesy of Alain Carion)
In 1971, geologists from
the CEA (Atomic Agency) were prospecting in the area as part of a
campaign to find sources of uranium; they happened to pass by the farm
“La Gravette” and noticed the stone sitting by a barn. They immediately
identified it as a meteorite, they broke a piece that they sent to the
British Museum in London for analysis and the Museum confirmed that it
was indeed a meteorite, an ordinary chondrite H5. Georges’s dream was
confirmed, it really was a meteorite; the geologists allowed Georges to
keep it at the farm but then he moved it inside on a base. Georges was
fascinated by that stone, he built himself a nice library with many
scientific books and it became a passion.
For years after this, Georges welcomed people from all over the area and
whole school buses, happy to show them the meteorite and talk about the
NASA contacted him wanting to acquire it. Collectors made generous
propositions but Georges preferred to keep his treasure fallen from the
sky wanting only to share it with everyone, big and small. And
scientists and enthusiastic amateurs from all over the world, Americans,
Europeans, Japanese,…..kept on coming to the farm “La Gravette” to
admire his meteorite.
Georges never married or had children; the meteorite was his unique
passion and he found great joy in telling its story.
and the meteorite, circa 1972
(Photo published by “L’Eclat Midi-Pyrenees”, now defunct)
1980s, the project of mining for uranium in the area seemed to be about
to become a reality and then Treville would be surrounded by quarries.
The mayor alerted the press and the television stations to tell them
about all those grand projects; between the uranium and the meteorite,
Treville and its inhabitants were suddenly in the spotlight.
But the years went on peacefully, Michel and Georges moved to another
farm, “Plaisance”. Then, before moving to a retirement home, Georges
offered his meteorite to his nephew also named Georges. And that is when
To better understand that trouble, it is important to make a few points
At the time of the discovery, the field belonged to Madame Gil then to
her daughter who married a Monsieur Gras; that couple was perfectly
happy to see Georges (the uncle) enjoy his meteorite, they did not want
it and they never wanted to cause any problems to anyone. Many years
later their son Claude (Gras) decide that he wanted to sue the
Krivobokows to get the meteorite back but his mother was firmly opposed
to the idea. When his mother died, Claude Gras demanded that his father
sue the Krivobokows to get the meteorite back but the father refused to
go against the wishes of his deceased wife. Claude Gras had to wait
until the death of his own father to start any legal proceedings. He
then demanded that the inhabitants of the village sign documents stating
that they had seen the meteorite in the farm “La Gravette”; he hired a
private detective to carry his own investigation and a geologist to get
GPS readings of the area then he gathered a mass of documents. It
included a letter from the Museum of Natural History in Paris wanting to
acquire it and forbidding its exportation.
The case between Claude Gras and Georges Krivobokow (the nephew) was
heard in court several times after 2000, first in Carcassonne then
Montpellier and finally in Paris. Claude Gras lost every single time,
all the way to the highest Court of Appeals because of the “Loi du
Trentenaire” that only gave him 30 years to make a claim; the meteorite
was discovered in 1966, therefore it had become the official property of
the discoverer, Michel Krivobokow, in 1996.
Michel Krivobokow and
(Photo courtesy of Jean-Luc Billard)
During my investigation, I learned that the meteorite has disappeared:
not long before his death in 1999, Georges (the uncle) apparently went
back to his nephew, retrieved the meteorite and hid it so well that to
this day no one knows where it is.
I would like to thank the inhabitants of Treville who helped me
reconstruct the history of this meteorite, Jean-Luc Billard for his
active participation in this research and William Sanchez for his
advices at the beginning of the research.
Small part-slice of
From the Collection of Alain Carion
(Photo courtesy of Anne Black)
article has been edited by Anne Black and Norbert Classen.
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