The first traces of the Abbey of Jumièges, in the loops of the Seine, date back to 654. The superb ruins belong since 2007 to the department of Seine-Maritime and have become an important tourist attraction. The community has also launched investments of several million euros to make the site accessible to all and offer a museographic program.
But before considering the first groundbreaking, archaeologists must intervene on the fifteen hectares of the historic monument: "In January, we already carried out a major geophysical prospecting campaign. The results are impressive. We know that under Jumièges, there is a phenomenal amount of remains where thoughtful and scheduled excavations have never been done. You just have to scratch shallow to find some," says Caroline Dorion-Peyronnet, chief curator of heritage in the Seine-Maritime department. And, these are not just words, because from the first phase of research, two inviolate burials were thus uncovered.
A papal bull
The actual archaeological excavations began in June in the so-called St. Peter's Church, the first sanctuary built, according to current sources, under the Carolingian dynasty, then transformed in 1335 in the Gothic style: "This is the oldest sector of the abbey with, in specific places, painted plasters which is unique. Here, we have drawn up a three-phase excavation plan. We are at the second in the nave. From the first weeks, we made important discoveries. First of all, the traces of the chevet of the Carolingian church. Then, in a side aisle, an inviolate grave in a wooden coffin. In addition to the skeleton, we found a papal bull, nails and shreds of wood that date this tomb to the fourteenth century. It could be Father Jean Papillon or Jean IV Hors," explains Caroline Dorion-Peyronnet.
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A few meters away, in the Gothic choir, a second inviolate burial was unearthed, this time in a masonry tank and a lead coffin: "It was never visited because according to seventeenth-century writings, it must have been against the north wall where nothing was found. So, according to the best hypothesis, it would be William VII called William the Younger, Abbot of Jumièges in the fourteenth century who completed the construction of the Gothic choir ".
New research this winter
In the vault, fragments of three different fabrics, leather soles, plant remains and insects accompanied the remains: "Collected by the anthropologist of the team of the CEM (Centre d'études médiévales) of Auxerre, the skeletons were taken away for palynological, carpological and entomological analyses. A piece of the pelvis will also be studied to determine possible pathologies. To validate the burial date, a Carbon 14 analysis will be carried out as well as lead to know its composition and provenance. All these samples will follow a precise and long protocol, "explains the curator.
The 3rd phase of the excavations will take place after winter, from the Charles VII passage to the emmarchement. With the quasi-guarantee of making other equally exciting finds.