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Ancient leaden sarcophagus found under Notre Dame cathedral

Archaeologists have discovered an old lead sarcophagus and parts of a rood screen beneath Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, providing new insight into the history of the structure, which is presently undergoing repair following a devastating fire in 2019.

The excavation operation within Notre-Dame, which originates from the 12th century, was commissioned as a preventative step before the erection of scaffolding needed to rebuild a 100-meter high wooden roof ridge.

‘The floor of the transept crossing has revealed remains of remarkable scientific quality’, France’s Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot said, adding that excavation work has been extended till March 25.

The excavation site is buried behind an 18th-century stone layer, while some lower levels date back to the 14th century, and some even to the early 13th century, according to the Culture Ministry.

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Christophe Besnier from France’s National Archaeological Institute said: ‘We were able to send a small camera inside which showed cloth remains, organic matter such as hair and plant remains. The fact that these plants are still there indicates that the contents have been very well preserved’.

Archaeologists believe the lead sarcophagus belonged to a high-ranking official and it might date back to the 14th century, making it a stunning find if verified. The dig also uncovered a hole beneath the cathedral floor, which was most likely dug about 1230, when Notre-Dame, one of the oldest examples of French Gothic architecture, was being built.


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