The visual exercise is not obvious. But Irio Toncelli, a native Italian who has lived in Trans-en-Provence for more than 45 years, is certain. “Here you can see the eyeshe points with his pen at the white marble slab. And there is a nostril, then finally the mouth, which is clearly seen below.“
By forcing the imagination a little, the outline of a monkey-like face actually seems to appear. “I noticed it very quickly because as a draftsman I know how to recognize a face when there is one.explains the 96-year-old man, who remembers his “discovery” in the 1980s like it was yesterday. I sat in the bathroom, staring at the marble tiles at my feet, I warned my wife and shouted: Look! There’s a guy watching me!”he laughs.
In search of recognition
Convinced of having unearthed a treasure, Irio Toncelli, aided by his son Jérôme, begins a long investigation. Twice, in 2006 and 2020, they took the marble slab to a medical imaging office in Saint-Raphaël to observe it under X-rays, the second time using a facial recognition intelligence device.
The radiographs obtained would, according to them, reveal the contours of a skull, as well as traces of dental alveoli. In May 2022, a bailiff from Actazur based in Draguignan even came to make a statement.
Phone calls and letters are linked to get feedback from doctors and scientists. And the shower is often cold for Toncellis. “I had come across a very embarrassed person who had brought up the linguistic elements that we have since heard many times from the scientific community. They dare not venture on this ground“, admits Jérôme. A monkey face? Pareidolia according to several researchers.”It’s impossible… It’s like the clouds in the sky, you think you see a face, but there’s nothing“, he would have been answered.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry”
Researchers contacted by us are also prohibited. “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the announcement of such a discovery.sighs Bernard Mottequin, palaeontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS). The stone mined in Carrara (Italy, where the plate would come from) was originally a limestone deposit of marine origin formed during the Jurassic (between 201 and 145 million years before our era, editor’s note). During its formation, there was a total disappearance of the fossils and sedimentary structures it contained.“
Not considering”the first primates appeared in the lower Eocene, i.e. after the boundary between the Cretaceous and Cenozoic times, when the dinosaurs disappeared (65 million years before our era, editor’s note) “, emphasizes Bernard Mottequin.
Words confirmed by Jacques Rebiere, conservator-restorer at the Var Archaeological Center (LC2R), in Draguignan. So revealing the enormous anachronism that this “fossil” would represent.
“You will understand that primates and Carrara marble, so dear to Michelangelo, have nothing in common.“Last point.