Mysterious Leaden Sarcophagus Found Under Notre Dame Will Be Opened

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Jan Bartek – AncientPages.com – In March this year, scientists made a surprising discovery of an ancient sarcophagus and several tombs at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.

Based on what they saw at the time, researchers said it was a great finding of historical value.

According to the French Ministry of Culture, the discovery was made during the preparatory work to rebuild the spire of the temple.

Scientists found several tombs and a “completely preserved” lead sarcophagus in the shape of a human figure, but who is resting inside remains unknown.

Mysterious Leaden Sarcophagus Found Under Notre Dame Will Be Opened

It has been decided the lead sarcophagus found under Notre Dame will be opened. Credit: AFP

Notre-Dame has stood tall above Paris since the 1200s and it’s one of the most historic landmarks in the capital of France. It is also one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. The cathedral is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.

After the fire in 2019 many worried, that the historical building could not be saved but the cathedral has been rebuilt and preserved.

The burial sites “of remarkable scientific quality” were unearthed during preparatory work for rebuilding the ancient church’s spire at the central spot where the transept crosses the nave, the culture ministry announced late Monday.

According to Rzeczpospolita, the lead coffin could have been made for the “senior dignitary” and probably dates back to the 13th century – one century after the cathedral was built. Scientists judged the find to be of “tremendous scientific importance”.

“Archaeologists were delicately cleaning and excavating the sculptures emerging from the ground, including a pair of carved hands.

The bust of a bearded man and some sculpted vegetables, with traces of paint still visible, had been removed.

The team has already used a mini endoscopic camera to peek inside the sarcophagus, which appeared to be warped by the weight of the earth and stones,” the Associated Press reports.

It has now been announced the mysterious sarcophagus will soon be opened and its secrets revealed.

“The sarcophagus was extracted from the cathedral on Tuesday, France’s INRAP national archaeological research institute said during a press conference.

It is currently being held in a secure location and will be sent “very soon” to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in the southwestern city of Toulouse.

Forensic experts and scientists will then open the sarcophagus and study its contents, to identify the skeleton’s gender and former state of health, lead archaeologist Christophe Besnier said, adding that carbon dating technology could be used.

Surprising Discovery Of Ancient Sarcophagus At Paris' Notre-Dame Cathedral

The bust of a bearded man has also been excavated, part of an ancient screen. Credit: AFP

Noting that it was found under a mound of earth that had furniture from the 14th century, Besnier said “if it turns out that it is in fact a sarcophagus from the Middle Ages, we are dealing with an extremely rare burial practice”.

They also hope to determine the social rank of the deceased. Given the place and style of burial, they were presumably among the elite of their time,” Agence France-Presse reports.

During the press conference, INRAP head Dominique Garcia also made clear that the body will be examined “in compliance” with French laws regarding human remains.

“A human body is not an archaeological object,” he said. “As human remains, the civil code applies and archaeologists will study it as such.”

See also: More Archaeology News

Once they are done studying the sarcophagus, it will be returned “not as an archaeological object but as an anthropological asset,” Garcia added.

And could Notre-Dame, this unknown person’s home for so many centuries, serve as their final resting place?

INRAP said the possibility of “re-internment” in the cathedral was being studied.

Written by Jan Bartek – AncientPages.com Staff Writer



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