A reminder of the importance of pigeonniers, or dovecotes, to the people of these regions over the centuries. (Mind you, this could be just a shepherd’s hut. The perforations made me think pigeonnier.)
Sometimes the architecture of pigeonniers is rustic, sometimes elaborate. The meat, eggs and dung of pigeons were important products, and remain of some value. Further along the French Camino one sees light wooden pigeonniers suspended in forests, along with signs requesting silence from the pilgrims. A hunting arrangement, I’m guessing. (UPDATE: As Fred has pointed out in the comments, this structure is actually a shepherd’s hut. Merci, Fred.)
At last Figeac, a medieval river town of unforced elegance. A mix of architectures, no quaint uniformity, and no rough-hewn defenses. Traditional centre, rather than nervous outpost.
In a house off the main square, a boy, born in 1790, lived his first ten years. Too poor for school, he was fortunate to have a studious but practical brother, who was to help him throughout his life.
In his home town, Jean-Francois Champollion, instead of swapping footy cards to buy his first Gameboy, tried to master Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Chaldean and Chinese. His progress was such that some schooling was arranged, in Grenoble. Thus began an academic career which took in many things, but especially oriental languages. He was still but a boy when he was able to put forth a more or less correct theory connecting the language of the modern Copts with that of pharaonic Egypt. He soon got closer to Egypt with a gig in the Louvre’s antiquities collection.
So, imagine how it was when a more mature Champollion was able to get to Egypt – for one year! Yet for all that he achieved there, his name is most closely linked with an object found at Rosetta by French troops during Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign.
There is no one Father of Egyptology, but Champollion comes closest; this in spite of some vandalism on his part, typical of the earlier days of archeology. He was not alone in the decipherment of the Rosetta Stone, an exercise that was something of a race, which Champollion might be said to have won, with the help of predecessors as well as competitors. Like that other genius of decipherment, Michael Ventris, he died early. Time has cast few doubts on his achievement…and the proud citizenry of Figeac never had any doubts.
Figeac is Champollion town.