Image: GodefroyParis/Wikimedia Commons/Reproduction
In the last month, workers found a lead sarcophagus as they worked on rebuilding the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. At the time, researchers conducted a study with the help of an endoscopic camera, which revealed bits of tissue, hair and even a pillow made of leaves in the compartment.
Now, scientists want to go further: a team from France’s National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) plans to open the sarcophagus, revealing details about it.
The object was buried 20 meters deep, between tubes that formed a 19th-century heating system. However, 14th-century furniture found near the sarcophagus suggests that the sarcophagus dates back to that time.
If its origin in the Middle Ages is confirmed, researchers will be able to obtain details about the funerary practices and rites of the period. In addition, it will also be possible to determine the social position of the deceased – who, considering the way in which he was buried, seems to belong to the elite.
The sarcophagus should soon be sent to the Institute of Legal Medicine in the city of Toulouse, France. There, forensic experts and scientists will identify the skeleton’s gender and health status. In addition, it will be possible to estimate its approximate age using the carbon dating technique. |In it, scientists look for traces of the chemical element carbon — and how much it has decayed over time — to get an estimate of the age of a sample.
In France, human remains are not considered archaeological artifacts. At the end of the investigation, the skeleton should become an anthropological heritage. Its fate is still uncertain, but scientists are already investigating a reintroduction of the sarcophagus at Notre-Dame.