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14th century sarcophagus unearthed at site of Paris' Notre Dame cathedral

14th century sarcophagus unearthed at site of Paris' Notre Dame cathedral
Archaeologists unearthed ancient tombs and a 14th century sarcophagus while excavating underneath Paris' Notre Dame cathedral ahead of its reconstruction. Photo courtesy Roselyne Bachelot/Twitter

March 16 (UPI) -- Archaeologists discovered ancient tombs and a sarcophagus likely dating back to the 14th century at the site of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

The excavation was ordered by the Regional Archaeology Service ahead of plans to reconstruct the cathedral following the 2019 fire that collapsed the roof and spire of the national landmark. Workers unearthed burial sites "of remarkable scientific quality" and a "completely preserved" human-shaped sarcophagus made of lead.

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"The first analysis of the furniture contained in the embankment level above it could lead to dating this burial to the latest in the 14th century. Given the characteristics and location of the sarcophagus, the hypothesis of a burial of a high dignitary seems likely," France's Culture Ministry said in a statement Monday.

Along with the tombs, the excavation unearthed a pit just below the cathedral's current floor containing elements of sculptures identified as belonging to the original 13th-century rood screen which separated the altar area from the nave.

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The Culture Ministry noted that French architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc had previously found fragments belonging to the rood screen in the 19th century.

"Congratulations to [the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research] for the exemplary excavation site carried out at #noredameparis," Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot wrote on Twitter. "It allowed important discoveries which will significantly enrich our knowledge of the cathedral."

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