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Mystery sarcophagus found in Notre-Dame after it was devastated by a fire will be opened

Archeologists in France will soon open a mysterious sarcophagus hidden beneath the floor of Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral, NPR reported.

A picture shows a lead sarcophagus discovered in the floor of Notre Dame Cathedral, in Paris, on March 15, 2022.

Following the devastating fire in 2019, archeologists were called in to help restore and conserve the cathedral.

In preparation for scaffolding needed to construct the cathedral’s spire during excavation work, they discovered a human-shaped lead sarcophagus.

It was buried below the cathedral’s central nave and situated between brick pipes of a 19th-century heating system, CBS News reported.

Archeologists excavate the floor of Notre Dame Cathedral after the discovery of a lead sarcophagus, in Paris, on March 15, 2022.

The sarcophagus was excavated, and archeologists concluded that it is in good condition despite some holes, according to the National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap). It had buckled slightly but remained sealed, The Daily Beast reported.

Archeologists believe it may date back to the 14th century, but further research once it is opened will help determine the date of origin and the deceased individual’s identity.

The archaeologists used an endoscopic camera to peer inside the casket. The camera detected cloth remains and organic matters, such as hair, per NPR.

France’s Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot (C, left) visits the Notre Dame Cathedral archeological research site in Paris on March 15, 2022.

Plant material was also detected, NPR reported, suggesting that the contents of the sarcophagus have been well-preserved and lined with wood from a boxwood tree.

Boxwood trees were used to preserve the bodies of France’s social elite, NPR said.

“It is probably an important character, perhaps appearing in the register of the burials of the diocese,” Inrap said.

It is thought that the coffin was made for a senior church official in the 1300s, according to The Guardian.

DNA tests will attempt to identify the deceased person, said the president of Inrap Dominique Garcia, per The Guardian.

A picture shows a lead sarcophagus discovered in the floor of Notre Dame Cathedral, in Paris, on March 15, 2022.

A worker stands under scaffolding at the reconstruction site in the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2022.

“A sarcophagus containing a human body is not an archaeological object,” Garcia said. “These are human remains, and while examining the sarcophagus and analyzing the body and other objects inside, we must do so with respect.”

He said it’s “too early to say” whether the body would be reburied somewhere in the cathedral, The Guardian reported.

The sarcophagus is currently stored at a secure location. It will be sent to the Institute of Forensic Medicine for further research, per CBS News.

During the excavation, archeologists also discovered ancient tombs, a sculpture of a man’s head, and a block from a rood screen, according to the Smithsonian Magazine.