Right over here, in the Sainte-Victoire mountain, there is a fossilised forest. It’s not very easy to see, because it requires creeping spider-like along the cliff, on a path that’s much too steep to climb using your feet only. At some point, when you crawl along the rocks, you notice concentric rings of calcite crystals. If you look closely, you’ll see the shape of trunks and branches, fossilised and crystalised and forever bound in rock.
It’s a forest of stumps, really. But the crystal rings are beautiful all the same.
I used to think, wrongly, that these calcite rings were the famous dinosaur eggs everybody has heard about around here but nobody sees because the places where they are are either too hard to climb or plain forbidden. Actually, the eggs are much smaller, and less dramatic. But they still look like reptile eggs… which look, well, very much like rounded stones, but as there are no rounded stones there as it’s a limestone cliff and there is no water nearby, their true nature is apparent. And some pieces definitely look like fragments from a very big eggshell.
The dinosaurs that inhabited the area are titanosaurs, very big things with a long neck that look quite similar to brontausaurs. Few bones were found, they only managed to piece together one big skeleton, that’s standing in the museum right behind our flat. But they found an amazing lot of eggs all over the place.
Apparently, the reason for this is that there used to be a large river over here. And our dear titanosaurs soon noticed that it was very easy to dig nests in the soft earth of the banks. So they dug nests, laid eggs, covered the nests in a big layer of vegetable matter that would then rot and keep the eggs warm. The only detail of that brilliant plan they didn’t think through was that there is a reason why the earth near the banks of a river is soft. It’s called overflowing.
The titanosaurs kept losing eggs to the overflowing river. And kept laying eggs there anyway. And kept losing eggs. Not every single egg that is laid in the wrong place gets fossilised, so given the massive quantities we can find now, we can assume that they kept laying eggs in the wrong place for a very, very long time. And then they disappeared.
The eggs are still encased in rock today, and erode down the cliffs year after year, and there are so many of them scientists don’t bother studying them all, or even putting a "keep off" sign near the less interesting nests. You still stumble across them if you’re careful, at the edges of the fossilised forest, all that remains of the land of not-very-bright dinosaurs.