In Paris, the archaeological center resurfaces and offers new reserves

Shelving of the reserves of the archaeological center of the City of Paris (18th arrondist), in June 2023.

In April, relayed by all the major media in France, the rediscovery of an ancient necropolis in the heart of Paris reminded us that, despite the capital’s tendency to petrify itself into a museum city, development work is being carried out there. some of which require the intervention of archaeologists. Of course, excavations can be counted each year on the fingers of one hand and are generally carried out on limited areas, but the probability of making interesting discoveries is inversely proportional to these small numbers: “Paris is a rich and complex city: the entire history of France is made there”remember Julien Avinainhead of the archaeological center of the City of Paris. In certain places, the thickness of the historic strata exceeds 6 meters, to the point that the“we can find the ancient levels under the cellars dug in the 19the century for Haussmannian buildings »he adds.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Rediscovery of an ancient necropolis in the heart of Paris

Julien Avinain thus gives the example of an excavation that his service carried out in 2022 in the 5e district, a stone’s throw from the Sorbonne: “Seven people worked for six months on a private development of only 180 square meters. But we took out 450 boxes of “furniture” [terme désignant tous les objets exhumés], including 300 to 350 cases of animal remains. The site is opposite what was the ancient forum and it is umed that we were in the commercial sector, with butchery activities. »

Another example, even more recent, since it dates from 2023, with a diagnosis – survey to ess the archaeological value of a site – carried out at the Palais de justice, on the Île de la Cité. In a hole of only 6 square meters, archaeologists explored layers from the Middle Ages to ultimately arrive at the remains of the west wall of the Lutetian Roman enclosure. “We had not come across this part of the ancient enclosure since the construction of a corridor between the courtyard of the Palace and the Cité metro station in 1910, comments Julien Avinain. So it can be very small but very interesting. » With the major drawback that researchers, in the Parisian millefeuille where more than two millennia of history pile up, must master “a monstrous bibliography”to use Julien Avinain’s expression.

The main room of the Parisian archaeological reserves houses more than 7,500 boxes of archaeological objects and nearly 120 pallets of sculpted lapidary elements.  At the archaeological center of the City of Paris (18th arrondist), in June 2023.

Open access digital map

Little known, its service is the heir of the Old Paris Commission, created in 1898 to study and protect the capital’s buried heritage. This commission, recognizes Julien Avinain, “had not known how to take the turn towards the professionalization of archaeology. So we had to rethink everything in the 2010s.” An immense amount of painstaking work, which notably consisted of digitizing the archaeological map of Paris (online since 2019) and to make a complete inventory of the remains unearthed in the capital, an inventory which should be completed in 2023, with more than 90,000 entries in the database. Not forgetting the digitization of 60,000 documents.

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