Ancient Skeletons Found Near Notre Dame

Ancient Skeletons, Around Two Thousand Years Old, Have Been Found Near Notre Dame During Excavation for Train Station Expansion.

Apr 25, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Notre Dame Cathedral, Ancient Skeletons
Notre Dame Cathedral


Ancient skeletons have been found in Paris’s old soil called Ile de la Cite. This is the place of Notre Dame’s location. Overall, this wasn’t intentional excavation. It’s all part of the project around the construction of the railway station, so the remains surfaced by chance. Two processes are parallel: the expansion of the Port Royal station and the excavation of archaeological remains.

Ancient Skeletons Found at Lutetia’s Cemetery

Ancient Skeleton
Cross-checking of two burials of the excavation of Boulevard de Port-Royal in Paris in 2023. © CAMILLE COLONNA, INRAP


The site of the station was once a Roman city, Lutetia. It was also a home to the Gallic Parisii tribe. There are about 50 remains found on the site, and they are part of Lutetia’s cemetery. People used it as a cemetery, beginning somewhere between the first and third centuries. Also, archaeologists discovered its purpose in the 19th century. But archaeologists from that period made a big mistake.

They focused on material objects, instead of human remains. The archaeologists did this, regardless of the fact that they had information about the area’s past. They totally left the tombs out of consideration. “What’s so exceptional about this is that we have a window into our past, which is quite rare in this city”, Dominique Garcia, president of France’s National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research, said.


Ancient Skeletons
A skeleton found in one of the 50 graves discovered in Paris.


“Drawing on their funeral rites, we can reach a kind of general vision of the people who lived in Paris in the second century”, he added. The skeletons include the remains of men, women, and children. The remains were found in wooden coffins, according to Parisian custom. As a result, aside from the skeletons, just minor fragments of wood and metal nails were left behind.


Artifacts Found at the Side Served as an Insurance for the Afterlife

Notre Dame soil
Gallo-Roman grave, featuring offerings, found close to Notre Dame. INRAP


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Small things like porcelain and glass cups and jugs, as well as the remnants of clothes like belts, pins, or shoes, came across in about half of the burials. Also, a penny appeared in the jaws of some skeletons within the coffin. This was probably a sacrifice made to the god Charon, who carried the deceased to the afterlife.


There was also a sacrifice mound. It comes with a complete pig’s skeleton, two enormous ceramic bowls, two more tiny animals. The goal is the assurance of the deceased’s existence in the afterlife. Scientists anticipate that the discovery will not only reveal information about the life of the Parish, but also DNA testing material. In this way, more information is obtained about the health of the people who lived in these areas.


the Lutetia cemetery
Ceramic objects found in the Lutetia cemetery. INRAP


In Greek mythology, Charon or Kharon is a psychopomp, the ferryman of Hades, the Greek underworld and is the son of Erebus and Nyx. e carries the souls of those who have been given funeral rites across the rivers Acheron and Styx, which separate the worlds of the living and the dead.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.