Analysis of two lead sarcophagi found beneath the floor of Notre-Dame de Paris during excavations in spring 2022 (CWA 113) is shedding new light on the identities of the deceased.
Following their discovery by a team from Inrap last year, the coffins were sent to the forensic institute of Toulouse University Hospital for further investigation.
The identity of one of the deceased was quickly determined, thanks to a brass plaque on the coffin, which established him as Antoine de la Porte, the wealthy Canon of Notre-Dame in the 18th century, who is known to have contributed towards the renovation of the cathedral’s choir. The epitaph tells us that de la Porte died on Christmas Eve 1710, at the age of 83. Further examination of the skeleton confirmed his high status, indicating that he had lived a sedentary life and had remarkably good teeth.
The second coffin – a lead sarcophagus that appears to have been moulded to the shape of the deceased’s body – was buried deeper than the other finds, 1m below the cathedral floor, and is older in date than the coffin of Canon de la Porte. This individual’s identity remains unknown, but skeletal analysis indicates that he was probably a member of the nobility who died aged 25-40 years old. His pelvic bones and upper legs indicate that he was an experienced horseman, while the poor condition of his teeth suggests that he suffered from some sort of serious illness towards the end of his life. His skull shows signs of cranial modification caused by the wearing of a headdress or headband as a child, and after death he appears to have been embalmed and buried with a wreath of flowers, further pointing to his elite status.
Investigations will continue this year with hopes of finding out more about the lives of these two individuals, before they are laid to rest once more.