More than 200 bodies have been found laid out in neat rows in a communal grave beneath a supermarket in central Paris.
The site was formerly the cemetery of a hospital that functioned from the 12th to the 17th century but it was believed the corpses had been moved in the 18th century to the Paris Catacombs which house the bones of six million people transferred from the city’s cemeteries 200 years ago.
Archeologists, called in by the Monoprix supermarket to inspect the site before building work was due to be carried out, had expected to find some remains but were astonished to find the large collection of bodies neatly laid out in the earth of the store’s basement.
“We thought that there would be a few bones as it was the site of a cemetery but we didn’t think we would find a communal grave,” said Pascal Roy, the director of the supermarket on Boulevard Sébastopol
The archeologists from the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) plan to carry out DNA tests to confirm their suspicions that the people buried in the cemetery of the former Hôpital de la Trinité may have died of plague or in a famine.
The bodies appear to have been buried all at the same time, which she said suggested they might have been the victims of the plagues which struck Paris in 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.