They also found some carved vegetables and a bearded man.
The 2019 fire that destroyed parts of the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral shocked the world as footage of the flames was watched by millions. With many pledges of money from across the globe, reconstruction efforts were undertaken almost immediately. However, due the damage of the fire the structure was made unsafe and efforts on the historic landmark have been cautious. At every stage scaffolds and supports have been needed to gingerly replace architectural elements and beams. Now a significant find has put the crew sliglhty behind schedule.
It was during an excavation ahead of post drilling near the foundation for the reconstruction of the spire in 2022 that experts working on the site found a rare relic from another age: a lead sarcophagus with potential human remains inside.
It was announced in early March of 2022 that the sarcophagus had been found. Initial investigations inside the 14th century coffin were made using a miniature endoscopic video camera. With minimal disruption to the contents researchers were able to see that the sarcophagus contained fabric, hair, and plants. Presumably the hair belongs to the person inside, but a full opening of the container has not yet been publicized.
In an interview with The Guardian, head archaeologist on the project, Christophe Besnier, said that finding plants inside gives good hope that everything that was placed inside the lead box was well-preserved.
The tomb is believed to been created for a head dignitary dating from the 1200s, which means it was placed there during construction. Building works on Notre-Dame began in 1163 and were completed in 1345.
#France – Ancient tombs unearthed at Paris' Notre Dame cathedral.
📸 JULIEN DE ROSA #AFP pic.twitter.com/umfus1USoN
— AFP Photo (@AFPphoto) March 16, 2022
The lead tomb had been warped and crushed by the weight of stones above it over time. Shockingly, it was found nestled among 19th century heating pipes.
In addition to the sarcophagus several other burials were also found. It was not uncommon in the Middle Ages for wealthy patrons and clergymen to be buried underneath chapels and cathedrals. They also found parts of the original rood, which visually separated the altar from the nave using decorative elements.
A mysterious leaden sarcophagus has been uncovered at Paris' #NotreDame cathedral.
The sarcophagus along with several tombs were unearthed during preparatory work for rebuilding the ancient church's spire, destroyed in the devastating 2019 fire #NotreDame_de_Paris pic.twitter.com/Dxxw4duKTH
— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) March 16, 2022
Roods are most often comprised of a central crucifix in large scale, surrounded by various design elements which allow churchgoers to partially see into the main altar where saint’s relics and other treasured items may be held. It is unclear what the rood was made of, but carved and painted fragments of it were found just below the modern floor level. Among the pieces were carved vegetables and a bearded man.
Ahead of resuming construction, archaeological completion deadline was extended until March 25, 2022. Despite these significant finds, a strict schedule must be maintained if the cathedral is to hit the target of the intended 2024 reopening.