Mysterious human-shaped sarcophagus discovered under Notre Dame Cathedral

(ORDO NEWS) — Several tombs and a lead sarcophagus dating back to the 14th century have been discovered by archaeologists at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after a devastating fire in 2019.

The graves were discovered during preparatory work to restore the spire of an ancient church in a central location, the culture ministry announced on Monday evening.

Among the tombs was a “completely preserved sarcophagus in the shape of a lead man.” The sarcophagus lay among the brick chimneys.

It is believed that the coffin was made for a high-ranking dignitary in the 1300s – a century after the construction of the cathedral.

In addition to the tombs, elements of painted sculptures have been found just below the current floor level of the cathedral, identified as an architectural element separating the altar area from the nave.

Mysterious human shaped sarcophagus discovered under Notre Dame Cathedral 2

On Tuesday, archaeologists carefully cleaned and dug up sculptures emerging from the ground, including a pair of carved hands.

The team has already used a miniature endoscopic camera to look inside the sarcophagus, which is thought to have been deformed by the weight of earth and rocks.

“You can see pieces of cloth, hair and, above all, a pillow of leaves on top of the head, a well-known phenomenon when religious leaders were buried,” said lead archaeologist Christophe Besnier.

“The fact that these plant elements are still inside means that the body is in very good condition,” he added.

His discovery will help improve our understanding of burial practices in the Middle Ages, added Dominique Garcia of the National Institute of Archaeological Research.

Archaeologists have been given a deadline of March 25 to complete their research so that workers can resume the reconstruction of the cathedral, which is scheduled to open in 2024.

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