Amazing Discovery: more than 200 carefully arranged skeletons in mass graves have been discovered in a supermarket in the heart of Paris , witness to the presence of a former disused hospital cemetery. Are they died of the plague? died because of famine? Archaeologists wonder because the dead seem to have succumbed in droves. Since early January, a team of Inrap (National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research) conducts excavations under the Monoprix Reaumur Sebastopol, the old building Félix Potin, in the 2nd district.
At this point, we know that was the cemetery of the Hospital of the Trinity founded in the twelfth century and destroyed at the end of the eighteenth century?. “As part of the redevelopment of the store, we decided to remove a promontory that was on the second basement, which triggered preventive excavations”, told AFP Pascal Roy, director of the store. “We expected it to have a few bones to the extent that it had been a cemetery but not find mass graves,” he said.
At the time of the disaffection of the cemetery the remains of the deceased had been transferred in part to the Catacombs of Paris where they still are. “But apparently, the work has not been done well,” said the archaeologist Isabelle Abadie, who heads the dig. “This is the first time a hospital cemetery was excavated in Paris,” she says, recalling that has already found in Marseille and Troyes particular. To date, the area of 100 m2 which is the subject of research, hut mass graves were discovered. Seven of them have between five and twenty individuals, filed two to five levels.
“Epidemic? Fiévé? Famine?”
pit, most impressive, has uncovered more than 150 skeletons, arranged on several levels. “But there is another layer underneath,” says Ms. Abadie. On sandy ground, dozens of well-preserved skeletons are aligned against each other. People seem to have crossed arms and legs together, suggesting that they were wrapped in a sheet or shroud. “What is surprising is that the bodies were not discarded but deposited carefully organized manner. The individual men, women and children were placed ‘head to tail’ likely to gain Place “shows the archaeologist. And at one time, on different levels. “This suggests that there have been many deaths of a sudden you have to find the cause of this mortality crisis + +.” Epidemic? fever? famine?. Paris was hit by several outbreaks of plague in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The capital was also affected by smallpox in the seventeenth, she reca lls.
The skeletal remains do not show damage to identify the cause of the mass death. DNA samples are underway to try to determine it. They will also help to establish possible genetic links between individuals. Carbon 14 dating of will also be made to understand how far back these mass graves. Archaeologists have found some pieces of medieval pottery and more recently. The anthropological study of the skeletons should provide information on individuals (age at death, sex …). The study of ancient texts and maps of Paris should complement the research.
Now, a race against the clock is committed to archaeologists they must have completed the excavation by 20 March, to allow the store to conduct its work. The skeletal remains will be studied on a site Inrap. “They will be treated with respect,” said Jean-Pascal Lanuit, the Regional Direction of Cultural Affairs Ile-de-France. Then, “the State will undertake to find a place” for the dead.