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Archaeologists say they will soon open a lead sarcophagus in the shape of a human found underground at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
The day after the fire, archaeologists were called in to help preserve and restore the cathedral while workers prepared for the task of rebuilding.
“The vaults here broke during the fire and a hole opened up in the 19th century heating grid and underneath there is a series of layers very dense, interesting and wonderful,” She said Archaeologist at the French National Institute of Archeology, Christophe Besnier.
Archaeologists were allowed to excavate a small area of exposed flooring in preparation for creating the scaffolding that would have to be constructed for To restore the great tower of the churchthat collapsed during the fire.
During preliminary excavations, archaeologists discovered a number of historical artifacts including painted carvings, tombs, and parts of a lost back screen which was a type of fence erected in 1230 to separate the choir from the worshipers.
The rough screen was demolished during the reign of Louis XIV, but excavations by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century led to the discovery of sections of the ornate wall. These sections are currently preserved in the Louvre Museum.
Among the tombs recently discovered is a human-shaped lead stone sarcophagus that archaeologists believe may date back to the 14th century, but they won’t know for sure until it’s opened.
“We were able to send a small camera inside that showed fabric remains and organic materials such as hair and plant remains,” Besnier said.
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He says the plant material indicates that the contents of the sarcophagus are well preserved and may have been from the boxwood tree, which was used to preserve the bodies of the social elite.
France’s National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research says it will try to identify and date the remains, believing they are of an important person.
Burials in churches and cathedrals were generally reserved for elites or members of the clergy, with the location closest to the choir being the most preferred.
Although other sections of the missing back screen were discovered, archaeologists were unable to discover them due to the restricted schedule hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as concern about bullets emitted from the fire, spreading toxic dust Throughout parts of central Paris.
French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to complete the reconstruction by April 15, 2024, the fifth anniversary of the fire and months before Paris is due. Hosting the Summer Olympics.
“Notre Dame is our history, our literature, part of our psyche, the place of all our great events, our epidemic, our wars, our liberation, the focus of our lives,” Macron told reporters the morning after the fire. “We will rebuild it together.”
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