This is a very surprising discovery. More than 200 skeletons, carefully arranged in mass graves were unearthed under the Monoprix supermarket Reaumur Sebastopol (second district) in Paris. Since early January, archaeologists from the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) lead the excavations under the Félix-Chat building, which was formerly the cemetery of Trinity Hospital, founded in the twelfth century but destroyed the late eighteenth century.
All the skeletons discovered they are those people who died of the plague and died because of famine? Inrap teams are questioning because one thing seems certain: the deceased died en masse …
Eight mass graves already discovered
“As part of the redevelopment of the store, we decided to remove a promontory that was on the second basement, which triggered preventive excavations,” says Pascal Roy, director of the store. “We expected that it remains a few bones to the extent that it had been a cemetery but not find mass graves,” he said, astonished.
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 was not done well,” says 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, over the area of 100 m2 which investigated eight mass graves were discovered. Seven of them have between five and twenty individuals, filed two to five levels. The eighth hole, the most impressive, has uncovered more than 150 skeletons, arranged on several levels. “But there is another layer below” warns Isabelle Abadie.
fever, plague, famine … the mystery remains unsolved
On sandy terrain, 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’s amazing is that the bodies were not discarded but deposited carefully organized manner. Individual men, women and children were placed ‘head to tail’ presumably to save space, “shows the archaeologist. The all in one go, on several levels.
“This suggests that there has been many deaths at once. It remains 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 says.
The excavation must be completed before March 20
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 dating of 14 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 research
Now, a race against the clock is committed to archaeologists. They must have completed the excavation by 20 March to to allow the store to conduct its work. The skeletal remains will then 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.
VIDEO. More than 200 skeletons discovered on the Monoprix Reaumur Sebastopol.
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