Archaeologists have unearthed several 19th-century tombs and a lead sarcophagus in the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris after the devastating 2019 fire.
Funeral sites of “outstanding scientific quality” were found in preparation for the reconstruction of the top of the old church in the central area where the transept crosses, the Ministry of Culture announced on Monday night.
Among the graves was a “fully preserved, human-shaped sarcophagus made of lead.”
The coffin is believed to have been made by a high-ranking official in the 1300s, the century after the cathedral was built.
In addition to the tombs, the elements of the painted sculpture were found under the current floor of the cathedral, identified as part of the original 13th-century canyon screen, the architectural elements that separate the altar area and the nave.
During a visit by the AFP on Tuesday, archaeologists were thoroughly cleaning and excavating the sculptures that were excavated from the ground, including a pair of carved hands.
A bust of a bearded man and some sculpted vegetables, traces of paint that can still be seen, were removed.
The group has already used an endoscopic mini camera to look inside the sarcophagus, which seemed to bend the weight of the earth and stones.
“Pieces of cloth, hair and, above all, a pillow of head could be seen, a well-known phenomenon when religious leaders were buried,” said chief archaeologist Christophe Besnier.
“The fact that these plant elements are still inside means that the body is in a very good state of conservation,” he added.
His findings will help improve understanding of medieval burial practices, said Dominique Garcia of the National Institute of Archaeological Research.
The findings were to rebuild the spiral for the installation of giant scaffolding prepared by the reconstruction team, and to check the stability of the soil.
In the process, an underground heating system was discovered in the 19th century.
Despite the excitement of the discovery, the clock is ticking for archaeologists.
They have until March 25 to complete the rebuilding project before they can begin the planned reopening of the cathedral in 2024.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a union feed.)