lunes, 29 de diciembre de 2014

Excavation of Saint-Germain church (France)

A team of Inrap archaeologists have been working since 2013 on the site of the foundations and cemetery of Saint-Germain church in Flers (north-western France), prior to a proposed development. The investigation is allowing for the study of a group of individuals buried in the parish cemetery, as well as research on the foundations of the modern church built in the eighteenth century, over the remains of the previous church.
So far nearly two hundred graves have been carefully excavated and matched with an archival study tracing the history of the parish and the cemetery.

The remains of Saint-Germain church

Mentioned in archives from the 12th century, research shows that by the fifteenth century, Flers was a small rural village of about 500 people concentrated around the Saint-Germain church. This would make the Saint-Germain district the oldest area of the modern town (now 17,000 inhabitants).
Associated with the church, the cemetery remained in use until the eighteenth century. After construction of a gatehouse in 1720, the church building was rebuilt in 1778, probably on the site of the medieval structure and above the old parish cemetery. This building was demolished in 1924 and a new Saint-Germain church was built, a few metres from the old. Archaeologists have uncovered the foundations of the eighteenth century church and the remains of the imposing gatehouse. Their goal is to understand the evolution of religious buildings from the 12th century to the present and to confirm if the eighteenth century church lies directly over its medieval predecessor.

Understanding the population


A major bonus for research on the parish cemetery is the continued use of the site from the Middle Ages until the late eighteenth century. The high density of graves had to be exhumed prior to the development and archaeologists have carefully excavated nearly two hundred burials.
The majority of people were buried in wooden trapezoidal coffins, held together with nails. The bodies were wrapped in  shrouds which were held together by copper alloy pins. Individuals were mainly lying on their backs, head to the west and forearms crossed over the chest or pelvis and very little in the way of grave goods. These burial practices are common in the late Middle Ages to the modern era. However, two graves stand out as unusual, having been buried using a method usually reserved for a privileged social class. There were two chambers located towards the church altar where two 18th century lead sarcophagi were found: attached to one of them was a lead heart.

Ongoing research

Current research combines archaeology, anthropology and study of parish registers. The parish of Saint-Germain has records available dating from 1637 to 1792. They give an indication of the burial areas and allow direct observation for variations in the number of buried, corresponding to peaks of possible deaths. The work seeks to highlight and analyse areas of differential burials according to social class, age or gender of the interred. The anthropological study, including paleopathological analyses will bring new information on lifestyles, including the sanitary and epidemiological conditions of the people. The researchers may be able to work out a particular organisation of burial zones, for example burials of privileged social groups in the nave and ordinary people outside the church, and burial sites by age and sex of buried etc.

Source: Past Horizons:
http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/12/2014/1-2-million-year-old-stone-tool-discovered-in-turkey