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French report details archaeological finds under Notre Dame cathedral

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French report details archaeological finds under Notre Dame cathedral
View of the debris inside the Notre-Dame-de Paris in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the cathedral April 16, 2019. French national archaeological institute Inrap published a report Thursday detailing archaeological discoveries found during the reconstruction of the cathedral. Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA-EFE

April 15 (UPI) -- The archaeological dig under the fire-damaged Paris Notre Dame cathedral in Paris has yielded a trove of objects dating back to the 13th century.

The French national archaeological institute Inrap detailed the finds and the scope of the excavation effort in a report published Thursday.

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The initial surprise discovery of these hidden ancient treasures happened as teams began repair and reconstruction of the fire-damaged Notre Dame cathedral.

Construction on the cathedral began in 1163.

Inrap said the three-year excavation started with an "archaeological emergency" as archaeologists immediately began to identify, safeguard and sort all collapsed materials after the fire in 2019.

Among the finds were pieces of the lost rood screen of Notre Dame built around 1230. It was destroyed at the beginning of the 18th century.

"Thanks to the excavation, several hundred lapidary elements ranging from several hundred grams to nearly 400 kg were found, buried in the eastern area of the transept," Inrap said in its report.

The report marked the end of excavations at the crossing of the transept of the cathedral.

Graves were also discovered as several burials were identified and exhumed.

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A lead sarcophagus was part of that find. Inrap said an indoscopic camera "made it possible to identify the presence of plant remains under the head of the deceased."

The excavation also revealed ceramic furniture dated to the 14th century. Now that this excavation has been completed, Inrap said a long period of analysis and study of the finds remains to be done.

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