I missed a big event at Teysseroles a couple of weeks ago because I was slaving over a hot computer. The mandatory archaeological test digs took place over nearly three days around the 15th-century chapel. This is a requirement before any further restoration work can take place. They made some interesting finds.
L’institut national des récherches archéologiques préventives (INRAP) is the official body that investigates sites of potential archaeological interest that are going to be restored or developed. They carried out the digs in late June just before our fête.
We already knew that the present chapel had been constructed in the 1490s on the site of a much earlier one. Surviving documents mention that it existed in 961. Although the terrain is naturally higher than the surrounding countryside, the mound on which the current chapel stands is clearly not natural. So we suspected that it had just been built on top of the original church.
That church may have fallen down or been demolished. Accounts exist of the village that once surrounded the church being burnt down during the Hundred Years War. We may never know for certain what happened. However, it’s clear from the size of the mound and of the cemetery that the original church was much bigger than the present one.
The first place INRAP excavated was just outside the main door of the chapel. And they found what may well be a wall of the original church. It extends outwards into the cemetery and apparently confirms that it was a bigger building. The wall is also well constructed – rather better, in fact, than some of the masonry in the later chapel.
But the most exciting find was that of a skeleton which INRAP thought might be around 500 years old. They found it outside the altar end of the chapel, several feet down. A number of bones probably belonging to childrens’ skeletons were above it.
The photos are those taken by members of our restoration association and some are rather blurred. But I hope that when we receive the report from INRAP, their photos will be more revealing.
The skeleton was that of a woman, probably young, who died of some illness. Her head was turned to one side and her hands crossed over her abdomen.
The archaeologists speculated that she was buried in that spot because she was too poor to afford a grave in the cemetery. Also, her head was right up against the wall of the chapel. This was a common burial practice, so that rain falling on the chapel roof, and thus becoming holy water, would penetrate the ground to her head, the archaeologists said.
The woman was wearing a bronze ring. INRAP found another bronze ring in the same spot.
They took her away for dating and further research, along with a number of other artefacts they found. I don’t know the rules about this, but we hope we might get her back to give her a second burial.
You might also like:
Copyright © 2015 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved