Apr 17, 2022 - World

Archeologists to open sarcophagus found at Notre Dame Cathedral after fire

 France's Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot (C, left) visits the Notre Dame Cathedral archaeological research site after the discovery of a 14th century lead sarcophagus, in Paris, on March 15.

France's Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot (C, left) visits Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral archaeological research site after the discovery of a 14th century lead sarcophagus on March 15. Photo: Julien De Rosa/AFP via Getty Images

Archeologists in France say they'll soon open a lead, body-shaped sarcophagus discovered beneath the floor of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral during excavation work following the 2019 fire, NPR reported Saturday.

Driving the news: The sarcophagus was found last month among other artifacts, including ancient tombs, the Guardian notes.

  • "The vaults crashed here during the fire and opened a hole into this 19th century heating network and underneath there is a series of layers which is very dense, interesting and fascinating," said French National Archeological Institute archeologist Christophe Besnier following the discovery.

The big picture: The sarcophagus that was extracted from the cathedral this week was being held at a "secure location" and would be sent to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in the southwestern city of Toulouse "very soon," Besnier said per AFP.

  • Researchers and forensic experts will examine the sarcophagus' contents once opened in order to date it and establish the skeleton's gender, he continued, noting that it was found near 14th century furniture.
  • "If it turns out that it is in fact a sarcophagus from the Middle Ages, we are dealing with an extremely rare burial practice," Besnier said.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron visited the cathedral on Friday — the third anniversary of the fire that consumed the historic landmark's roof and toppled its spire.

  • Macron, who's due to face off against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round of presidential elections on April 24, praised the progress of the restoration work, AFP reports.

What to watch: Macron has set an April 2024 target for restoration to finish, so the cathedral can reopen to worshippers and visitors in time for Paris hosting the 2024 summer Olympic Games.

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