Archaeologists have discovered an ancient lead sarcophagus under Notre Dame Cathedral, which gives a new look at the history of the building, which is now under reconstruction after the devastating fire in 2019, according to Reuters.
The cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century, ordered excavations inside as a precautionary measure before installing the scaffolding needed to restore the 100-meter wooden structure.
According to French Culture Minister Roslin Bachelet, the finds have “excellent scientific quality”. She added that the excavation work was continued until March 25.
The excavation site is under a rock layer dating back to the 18th century, but some lower levels date back to the 14th century and even the early 13th century, according to the Ministry of Culture.
“We were able to lower a small chamber that captured parts of the fabric, organic matter such as hair, and plant remains,” said Christophe Benier of the French National Institute of Archeology. “The fact that these plants are still there shows that the contents are very well preserved.”
Archaeologists say the lead sarcophagus must have belonged to a high-ranking official. They believe that it may date back to the 14th century, which, if confirmed, will make the find exceptional.
Excavations also revealed a pit directly under the floor of the cathedral, which was probably made around 1230, when Notre Dame, one of the oldest examples of French Gothic, was built.
A fire that broke out in the cathedral in April 2019 shook France. Parisians and surprised tourists cried, watching in horror as the fire caused great damage.