Notre Dame mystery to be REVEALED as archaeologists look to open ‘rare’ sarcophagus

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Experts hope to open up the lead sarcophagus soon, hoping that it will reveal all of its secrets. The researchers discovered the tomb during the preparatory work for rebuilding Notre Dame’s iconic lead spire, which disintegrated during the devastating fire in April 2019. 

The reconstruction workers had begun the process of rebuilding the 300ft tall spire by preparing to install scaffolding in the ground when they came across the artefacts buried underneath the rubble.

The sarcophagus was buried more than a metre underground, and was in a well preserved state when it was found.

A team of archaeologists studied the lead sarcophagus by using a mini endoscopic camera to examine the body located inside the tomb, which was partially punctured.

This camera allowed the experts to examine the body without opening it, which is how they were able to see the upper part of a skeleton, remains of plants under the head, possibly hair, textiles and an object which has not yet been identified.

Last week, the tomb was moved from the cathedral and placed in a secure location until researchers can be examine it further at a forensic institute in Toulouse, according to France’s National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap).

Once in Toulouse, forensic scientists will begin carefully opening the sarcophagus to better study the bones of the deceased and other objects they were buried with.

By opening the tomb, the researcher will be able to identify the sex of the deceased, along with their state of health, and try to narrow down a more precise date by using carbon dating technology.

Christophe Besnier, the scientific director of the site said: “The sarcophagus is located under fill containing furniture from the 14th century…

“If it turns out to be a sarcophagus from the Middle Ages, we are dealing with an extremely rare burial practice.”.

The researchers will also try to uncover further information on the rank of the deceased, who was thought to have belonged to an ecclesiastical or secular elite.

However, Dominique Garcia from Inrap noted that they would treat the body with respect, saying “a human body is not an archaeological object.

“As a human remains, it is the civil code that applies and archaeologists will study it as such.”

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Early research suggests that the sarcophagus was made for a senior dignitary sometime in the 1300s.

Since the 13th century, the Notre Dame has been the final resting place for about 400 bodies, including bishops, archbishops and canons.

The archaeologists believe that these discoveries will help improve their understanding of funeral practices during the Middle Ages.

Along with the ancient tomb, they also discovered a piece of a rood screen, which was an ornate partition that was a common feature in Medieval churches.

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