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The Pierres du Niton
are two unusual rocks which are visible from Quai Gustave Ador in the harbor of Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva or Lake Léman is a lake in Switzerland and France. It is one of the largest lakes in Western Europe. 59.53 % of it comes under the jurisdiction of Switzerland , and 40.47 % under France...
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....
. They are remnants from the last ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...
, left by the Rhone glacier
The Rhone Glacier, or sometimes Rhône Glacier is a glacier in the Swiss Alps and the source of the Rhone River and one of the primary contributors to Lake Geneva in the far eastern end of the Swiss canton of Valais...
. The Repère Pierre du Niton is the name of the rock which is bigger and further from the shore.
The word Niton
is derived from the ancient water god Neptune
Neptune was the god of water and the sea in Roman mythology and religion. He is analogous with, but not identical to, the Greek god Poseidon. In the Greek-influenced tradition, Neptune was the brother of Jupiter and Pluto, each of them presiding over one of the three realms of the universe,...
, who was revered by the Gauls
The Gauls were a Celtic people living in Gaul, the region roughly corresponding to what is now France, Belgium, Switzerland and Northern Italy, from the Iron Age through the Roman period. They mostly spoke the Continental Celtic language called Gaulish....
who settled at the lake, as old inscriptions in Geneva and Lausanne
Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...
Guillaume-Henri Dufour used the Repère as a height starting point by the development of the Dufourmaps from 1845 to 1864 in the graduation 1:100 000. At that time the height over sea level was estimated and decreed to be 376.86 m. Up to today, this stone forms the authoritative point of the Swiss height measurement system
Metres above the Sea is the elevation reference system used in Switzerland. Both the system and the term are also used in the Principality of Liechtenstein.- Use :...
. However, the height was newly evaluated in 1902 to be 373.6 m over sea level. This is why the data in maps of Switzerland made before 1902 differ by 3.26 m from today official values.
In the Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...
, these stones likely had a spiritual significance and were used in religious ceremonies. This has been hypothesized due to square holes at the top of the larger stone, discovered in 1660, which seem to have been caused by Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1500-1200 BC. AD) axes..