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Mystery sarcophagus found under fire-ravaged Notre-Dame to be opened

A mysterious lead sarcophagus discovered in the bowels of Paris' Notre-Dame cathedral after it was devastated by a fire will soon be opened and its secrets revealed, French archaeologists said.   

The lead sarcophagus discovered in the floor of Notre Dame Cathedral, in Paris
The lead sarcophagus discovered in the floor of Notre Dame Cathedral, in Paris. (Photo by Julien de Rosa / AFP)

The announcement came a day before the third anniversary of the inferno that engulfed the 12th-century Gothic landmark, which shocked the world and led to a massive reconstruction project.

During preparatory work to rebuild the church’s ancient spire last month, workers found the well-preserved sarcophagus buried 20 metres underground, lying among the brick pipes of a 19th century heating system.

But the casket is believed to be much older – possibly dating to the 14th century.

Scientists have already peeked into the sarcophagus using an endoscopic camera, revealing the upper part of a skeleton, a pillow of leaves, fabric and as-yet unidentified objects.

The sarcophagus was extracted from the cathedral on Tuesday, France’s INRAP national archaeological research institute said during a press conference.

It is currently being held in a secure location and will be sent “very soon” to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Toulouse.

Forensic experts and scientists will then open the sarcophagus and study its contents, to identify the skeleton’s gender and former state of health, lead archaeologist Christophe Besnier said, adding that carbon dating technology could be used.

Noting that it was found under a mound of earth that had furniture from the 14th century, Besnier said “if it turns out that it is in fact a sarcophagus from the Middle Ages, we are dealing with an extremely rare burial practice”.

They also hope to determine the social rank of the deceased. Given the place and style of burial, they were presumably among the elite of their time.

However, INRAP head Dominique Garcia emphasised that the body will be examined “in compliance” with French laws regarding human remains.

“A human body is not an archaeological object,” he said. “As human remains, the civil code applies and archaeologists will study it as such.”

Once they are done studying the sarcophagus, it will be returned “not as an archaeological object but as an anthropological asset,” Garcia added.

And could Notre-Dame, this unknown person’s home for so many centuries, serve as their final resting place?

INRAP said the possibility of “re-internment” in the cathedral was being studied.

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PARIS 2024 OLYMPICS

Paris Paralympic Games organisers unveil events schedule

Organisers of the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris have unveiled the programme and venue list for the 11-day sporting spectacular.

Paris Paralympic Games organisers unveil events schedule

When?

The Paralympics take place between August 28th and September 8th 2024, two weeks after the Olympics which end on August 11th. 

What?

The competitions will start the day after the Opening Ceremony, with spectators able to enjoy wheelchair rugby, taekwondo, archery, boccia, table tennis, goalball, wheelchair basketball, badminton, swimming, sitting volleyball and cycling.

In total, 23 medals will be awarded on the first day – for taekwondo (three), swimming (16) and cycling (four).

“The Paralympic Games are a mirror image of the Olympic Games,” Ludivine Munos, head of integration at Paris 2024, said. 

The athletes will stay in the same village, and compete at the same venues and France is fielding simply a ‘Games’ team – not dividing its athletes into Olympian and Paralympian teams.

Where?

These venues will host the following events.

Eiffel Tower: blind football

Champ-de-Mars Arena: wheelchair rugby | judo

Grand Palais: taekwondo | fencing

Les Invalides: archery

Pont Alexandre III: triathlon

Roland-Garros Stadium: wheelchair tennis

South Paris Arena 1 (Paris Expo complex): boccia

South Paris Arena 4 (Paris Expo complex): table tennis

South Paris Arena 6 (Paris Expo complex): goalball

Bercy Arena: basketball

Porte de La Chapelle Arena: badminton | powerlifting

La Defense Arena: swimming

Stade de France: athletics

La Courneuve to Invalides: marathon

Clichy-Sous-Bois: road cycling

North Paris Arena (Villepinte exhibition centre, Seine-Saint-Denis): sitting volleyball

Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines Velodrome: track cycling

As with the Olympics, most of the events will take place in Paris, but there are some non-Paris events;

Château de Versailles: Equestrian

Vaires-sur-Marne Nautical Stadium: rowing | canoe

Chateauroux Shooting Centre: shooting

The para-canoeing and para-rowing events planned for Vaires-sur-Marne will take place on a weekend, to ensure a maximum number of spectators. The para-swimming finals will take place in the evening, while the wheelchair rugby tournament is scheduled at the beginning of the Games.

How to get tickets?

Although the draw for Olympics tickets has now closed, Paralympic tickets do not go on sale until autumn 2023 – full details HERE.

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