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Archaeologists Have Identified the Individuals Interred in the Two Sarcophagi Discovered Beneath Notre Dame

In March of last year, two lead sarcophagi discovered buried beneath the transept of Notre Dame Cathedral began to reveal their secrets.

Three years ago, the day after a fire broke out at Notre Dame Cathedral, archaeologists were called in to assess the damage and assist with the lengthy and laborious restoration process. Early in 2022, during excavations at the cathedral, researchers uncovered two peculiar lead sarcophagi dating back centuries. No one could, however, guess who was buried there.

Now, according to an announcement by French researchers, the sarcophagi contain the remains of two wealthy men: a cleric who may have suffered from “kings’ disease” and a young nobleman whose remains indicate a difficult life.

Last month, Eric Crubezy, a professor of biological anthropology at the University of Toulouse III, oversaw the opening of the sarcophagi and examined the bones to learn more about the men’s age at death and way of life.

“The initial identification of his remains was made possible by a plaque on his coffin,” the professor told Live Science. The brass plaque bears the name of Antoine de la Porte, who died on December 24, 1710, at the age of 83.

According to Cruz, De la Porte was a member of the clergy and was in charge of the cathedral. The cleric supported the Notre Dame choir financially, and as a result, he was likely interred beneath the central transverse aisle, where the elite was interred.

According to a statement from the University of Toulouse, de la Porte’s remains, including his bones, hair, and beard, as well as some textiles, are reasonably well preserved.

Cruz reported that the cleric’s teeth were in excellent condition, but there were virtually no signs of physical activity on his body, indicating that he led a sedentary lifestyle. His big toe, however, displayed symptoms of gout, an inflammatory form of arthritis. Since gout can be caused by excessive alcohol and food consumption, it is often referred to as the “disease of kings.”

No inscription was discovered on the second lead sarcophagus, so its “owner” is currently unknown. This man died between the ages of 25 and 40, but his body betrays a hard life.

Cruz stated, “His teeth indicate that he rode horses from a young age and lost most of them in the years and months preceding his death.”

Archaeologists have discovered who was buried in the two sarcophagi found under Notre Dame

The investigator also discovered evidence of reactive bone swelling in the man’s skull and spine, leading him to speculate that chronic meningitis or tuberculosis may have caused his death.

Even more intriguing was the practice of burying the unknown man, known as “Le Cavalier,” after his death. Researchers discovered leaves and flowers around his skull and abdomen, but his hair was not preserved.

The researcher stated, “The horseman’s skull had been removed and his chest had been opened for embalming.” After the mid-16th century, this was a common practice among the nobility.

The date of the unknown man’s death will determine his identification.

“If his death occurred between the second half of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century, we may be able to identify him in our death register.

Christophe Besnier, the archaeologist who led the excavation team for the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP), stated at a press conference on December 9 that if the site is older than that, it is unlikely that we will ever learn who he was.

In the coming months, scientists will investigate the geographical origins and diet of the two men. The conclusion of these analyses is anticipated between the beginning and middle of 2023.


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