A devastating fire recently led to a secret discovery with roots dating back to the 14and century. Anthropologists are about to open a sealed sarcophagus found under the historic Notre-Dame cathedral in France.
Outside, the sarcophagus is made of lead and shaped like a human body. It is well preserved, with only a few cracks. Scientists were able to slide an endoscope camera through one of these cracks to peek inside. Inside they saw fabrics, hair, plants and objects yet to be identified.
“The fact that these plants are still there indicates that the contents have been very well preserved,” Christophe Besnier of the National Institute of Archeology (INRAP) told reporters via Reuters.
Under French law, since the tomb probably houses a human being, its study will have an anthropological rather than an archaeological focus. The sarcophagus will soon be sent to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in the South of France. Experts there will use carbon dating technology to learn more about the time period of the tomb and perhaps more about the person inside.
“If it turns out that it is in fact a sarcophagus from the Middle Ages, we are dealing with an extremely rare burial practice,” Besnier said.
Once the sarcophagus has been fully examined, it will likely be reburied under Notre Dame Cathedral once its renovation is complete.
Other items also found
The sealed sarcophagus is just one of the few items found buried under the church. Scientists also found statues, sculptures, furniture and fragments of an original rood screen. Popular of 13and at 18and centuries, a rood screen is a partition, often decorated with motifs, which separates the clergy from the choir during mass. You can already see parts of a rood screen in the Louvre.
Future of Notre Dame
Restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral has been underway since a devastating fire ravaged it in 2019. Officials hope the renovations will be completed in time for the Paris Olympics in 2024. In the meantime, tourists can still visit Place Notre-Dame in person and experience an augmented reality tour of the cathedral at Collège des Bernardins in Paris. A similar exhibit is also open at the National Museum Building in Washington DC. It runs until September 2022.
Even if you can’t see Notre-Dame right now, here’s a list of other beautiful churches you shouldn’t miss, along with our tips for avoiding long lines at popular Paris attractions, and why you should. Consider taking a cooking class while on vacation in France.