It is the most exceptional discovery of the year for the Archaeological Service of the city of Arras.
Uncovered in August 2020 during a preventive diagnosis carried out before the extension of a business on the site of a necropolis of the Lower Empire, a rare and ancient lead sarcophagus weighing 400 kg comes from just to reveal his first secrets.
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Opened last January 20 and analyzed since at the House of Archeology of Pas-de-Calais, in Dainville, where it was transferred, the sarcophagus - partly collapsed and dating from the 4th century BC.
AD - housed the remains of a man who died in his prime, between 25 and 35 years old.
Measuring between 1.78 to 1.80 m, the individual presented dental caries as well as traces of hemorrhages at the level of the right ribs which could indicate a possible violent death.
"The anthropologist will have to determine if the traces of breaks found on the bones can explain this hemorrhage which could clarify the death of the deceased,"
Sophie François, director of the House of Archeology, told France Bleu.
The open sarcophagus (after the excavation).
Malleable and fragile, the lead of the sarcophagus sagged after the collapse of the wooden formwork that contained it.
CD62 / DA / N.
If the interior of the sarcophagus did not contain any offering or any vestige of clothing, the attested presence of a wooden formwork - since disappeared - around the lead coffin as well as the early Christian decoration (christs and cross of Saint Andrew) of this The latter testify to the privileged social status of the deceased, who was probably a notable of the Late Empire, at the time when Arras was still called Nemetacum.
Although the various development works in this part of Arras "
tombs from the Lower Empire, the discovery of a lead sarcophagus remains an exceptional find, particularly with regard to its state of conservation.
As stated by the Maison de l'Archéologie du Pas-de-Calais, this is the fourth ancient sarcophagus discovered in Arras since the 18th century, the other three having all disappeared “
without a sketch or a photograph having could be achieved
Read also: An ancient necropolis of a thousand tombs discovered in Narbonne
A necropolis of late Antiquity
All the excavations carried out last summer by the Archaeological Service of the city of Arras brought to light 43 old burials, of which 10 were the subject of a detailed survey.
With the exception of the lead sarcophagus, the rest of the excavated tombs contained only traces of coffins, the presence of which is attested by the presence of nails and ferruginous wood.
Located on the outskirts of ancient Nemetacum, the necropolis today located in the area of rue Georges Auphelle was mainly used in the 4th-5th centuries, after which its use declined during the High Middle Ages for the benefit of the neighborhood of the abbey of Saint-Vaast.
Long neglected in the Roman world, the practice of burial of the dead for the benefit of their cremation developed in the course of the third century.
Still stored at the Maison de l'Archéologie du Pas-de-Calais, the sarcophagus will soon be restored in the Somme;
after which he might well return to Arras.
In any case, this is what municipal deputy Xavier Muylaert hopes: "
In the long term, we would like to be able to exhibit it within the Saint-Vaast Abbey which houses the Arras museum
", he said. declared to our colleagues France Bleu.
One way, for the Arras sarcophagus, to rest definitively near its penates.