The French research institute for archeology , Inrap, has reported findings from an archaeological dig at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, phys.org writes. Under the floor slabs, scientists discovered several hundred objects: sculptures, fragments of architectural decorations and an altar barrier, and a lead sarcophagus in the shape of a body.
Before the 30-meter-high scaffolding that workers would use to rebuild the badly damaged spire was erected in the cathedral, Inrap employees were allowed to excavate under the floor area. Among the finds, which experts called “extraordinary”, is a well-preserved head that was likely part of a sculpture of Jesus. The archaeologists also unearthed a fragment of an altar barrier, a richly decorated partition between the altar and the nave that separated the clergy and choir from the parishioners.
The most unusual find is a lead sarcophagus buried at a depth of 20 meters, which may contain the body of a high-ranking church official. Scientists believe that the burial dates back to the 14th century. Scanning showed preserved hair and fragments of tissue, but no inscription by which the buried person could be identified was found. In order to do this, Inrap staff will conduct forensics, including DNA testing. After that, the body will be reburied - perhaps somewhere in the cathedral.
Notre Dame Cathedral was badly damaged during a fire in April 2019: the flames almost destroyed the 850-year-old building. French President Emmanuel Macron promised to restore it and open it for service in five years. Worship services and tours are expected to resume at Notre Dame in 2024.