Eerie Discovery at Notre Dame: Ancient Sarcophagus Holds Knight with Bizarre Elongated Skull!

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Finding the remains of a high priest interred in the most revered area of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and all of medieval France seems to be a foregone conclusion. However, the discovery of a knight with an elongated cranium was somewhat surprising.

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In 1163 AD, Pope Alexander III laid the cornerstone of Notre Dame Cathedral, but in 2019 a fire nearly completely devastated it. This year, after spending the previous two years safeguarding its foundations, work began on restoring the oak spire that was inaugurated on August 18, 1859. This 19th-century spire attained a height of 315 feet (96 meters), which was 59 feet (18 meters) taller than the original spire from the 12th century, but it collapsed following the 2019 fire.

Where the transept crosses the nave, directly beneath the spire floor, researchers discovered several tombs containing hundreds of fragments of stone statues’ hands, feet, features, and plants. Two well-preserved lead sarcophagi were discovered among these shattered remnants, which were interred at the holiest location in all of medieval France.

The 2019 cathedral fire indirectly led to the discovery of these sarcophagi at Notre Dame (Wandrille de Préville / CC BY SA 4.0).

Discovery of the Canon and the Knight

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Professor Christophe Besnier, the leader of the scientific team, told The Guardian in April of this year that the discovery was “extraordinary and emotional.” Dominique Garcia, the director of the National Insтιтute of Archaeological Research, surmised to Ancient Origins in April that one of the lead sarcophagi “probably belonged to a dignitary from the early 14th century.”

Now, a team of French archaeologists has validated that Garcia’s hypotheses were accurate, announcing that one sarcophagus contains a “elite cathedral canon” and the other a “young cavalier” Since these human remains were recovered from a church, Dominique Garcia was eager to point out that they are not archaeological artifacts and will therefore be treated with respect from beginning to end.

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The opening of the sarcophagi at the forensic medicine laboratory in Toulouse. Given by: DR UT3

Interred at the Cathedral’s Heart
The statue fragments and two lead coffins were discovered beneath the transept crossing’s floor. The transept of a church divides the nave from the chevet (choir) and is a part of both the primary nave axis and the transept. Professor of biological anthropology at the University of Toulouse III, Eric Crubézy, stated that the two individuals were “clearly important in their respective eras to have been interred in such prestigious tombs at the heart of the cathedral.”

Both cemeteries were discovered during a speculative subterranean excavation prior to the installation of the 98-foot (30-meter) tall, 600-ton scaffold that is being used to replace the cathedral’s fire-damaged spire. The Guardian reported that one of the bodies belonged to a high priest who led a sedentary existence and perished in the year 1710 AD. The second lead coffin dated to the 14th century and contained the remains of “a young, wealthy, and privileged noble.”

Who were these Elites Interred in the Cathedral’s Core?

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The saint was discovered with a brᴀss engraving identifying him as Antoine de la Porte, the canon of Notre Dame Cathedral, who died on Christmas Eve, 1710, at age 83. De la Porte was a shrewd, powerful, and wealthy old cleric who commissioned a number of works of art now housed in the Louvre. The second coffin contained the remains of a man in his thirties, whose pelvic bones indicate he was an experienced horseman, according to the researchers. Therefore, he was given the appellation “Le Cavalier” (the knight).

The knight was laid to rest at the foot of a large cross that once adorned the demolished rood screen that separated the chancel and nave (clergy and choir) from the congregation (poor people with maladies). According to archaeologists, embalming was a “rare practice in the Middle Ages” based on the discovery of textiles and organic plant material in this internment. In addition, the knight was interred with a floral headdress.

This individual is believed to have been a member of the 14th century French aristocracy. This belief is not based on his floral crown, the fact that he was embalmed, or even his ability to demand interment at the holiest site in Paris, but on the fact that the knight had a ” skull deformation,” also known as an elongated cranium.

International Headbanding for Power
The knight had a “deliberately deformed skull” as a result of having a tint cloth band tied around his head for the first three months of his existence, causing the deformation. In the 1920s, Peruvian archaeologist Julio Tello, the “father of Peruvian archaeology,” exhumed hundreds of elongated Paracas civilization skulls dating to between 750 BC and 100 AD. These skulls have since been discovered in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe