French archaeologists revealed that a ‘mysterious’ leaden sarcophagus found in the bowels of the Notre-Dame cathedral will soon be opened. The sarcophagus was found after the Paris-based cathedral was devastated by a fire.
Where and how was the sarcophagus found?
Archaeologists made the announcement on Thursday, 14 April, just a day before the third anniversary of the fire. The inferno that engulfed the 12th-century landmark sent shockwaves throughout the globe.
During work to rebuild the church’s spire in March, workers found a well-preserved sarcophagus. It was buried over one metre underground. The sarcophagus was found among brick pipes used in a 19th-century heating system.
The sarcophagus is believed to be from the 14th-century
However, it is believed to be from the 14th-century. An endoscopic camera was used by scientists to take a look into the sarcophagus. The camera revealed an upper part of a skeleton, leaves, fabric and other unidentified objects.
The sarcophagus was removed from the cathedral on Tuesday, 12 April. It is being held in a secure location and will make its way to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Toulouse soon.
Scientists and forensic experts hope to study the contents of the coffin after opening it, reports France24. The skeleton’s gender and former state of health will be discovered. Archaeologists will also use carbon dating technology.
Lead archaeologist Christophe Besnier shared that the sarcophagus was found under a mound of earth that contained 14th-century furniture. Besnier noted that if the sarcophagus is from the Middle Ages, it can be regarded as ‘an extremely rare burial practice’.
Archaeologists also wish to find out what the deceased’s social rank was. Due to the place and style of the sarcophagus’ burial, it was presumed that the deceased was an elite.
Team vows to comply with France’s human remains laws
INRAP head Dominique Garcia shared that the body will be examined in compliance with French laws about human remains. He shared that as human remains, the civil code will apply and archaeologists shall study the sarcophagus as such.
“Once they are done studying the sarcophagus, it will be returned not as an archaeological object but as an anthropological asset,”
Dominique Garcia, INRAP head