Archeology put aside on the Notre-Dame construction site

An unpleasant surprise awaited the archaeologists on the Notre-Dame construction site upon their return from the end-of-year holidays. On Monday January 8, the staff of the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) went to the Île de la Cité to observe the drilling and then the earthmoving of a trench without the excavations preliminary studies by archaeologists have not been carried out. In a press release published on January 15, two trade unions (SGPA-CGT and SNAC-FSU) denounce “a blatant destruction of archaeological heritage”. “We were revolted when we learned on January 8, 2024 that the public establishment created to manage the restoration project had taken advantage of the Christmas holidays, the absence of the archaeological teams and the mandated construction company, to pass in strength “denounces the union communication.

While the archaeological team was on leave, part of the work carried out on the banks of the Seine (which consisted of digging trenches for the technical, electrical and fire safety networks) took place without preventive excavation: the Public Establishment (EP) responsible for the reconstruction of the cathedral specifies today that “this decision is the result of a collective assessment of the priorities and constraints carried out by the EP and the Drac [direction régionale des affaires culturelles] and shared with Inrap ».

However, Inrap seems to have been sidelined during this “collective appreciation”as Séverine Hurard, research engineer at Inrap and secretary general of the SGPA-CGT, relates: “on Monday the 8th, everyone rushed from the offices to Notre-Dame to see the damage”she remembers. “When the EP was created, there was a derogation from the heritage code which attributes the excavations directly to Inrap without going through a public contract, which suits everyone,” recalls the archaeologist. But despite this provision to speed up the excavations, nothing is ever fast enough for the EP”. For the unions, the objective of a mass in 2024 would take precedence today over the work of archaeologists.

“Nearly 1,700 m² of excavations or diagnostics have been ordered by the Drac since 2019, grouped into around fifteen separate operations, which is considerable”, the EP says in response. Séverine Hurard, for her part, describes a construction site where each square meter excavated is the subject of fierce negotiations: “What happened at the beginning of January was the straw that broke the camel’s back. On this site, we have returned to the 1970s, when archaeologists chained themselves to the gates of monuments so that the archaeological remains would not be destroyed. Today, the EP is doing what we would not tolerate from any private developer. »

However, Inrap and the EP communicated widely during the discovery of the rood screen in the choir of the cathedral – an excavation for which “we had to fight” remembers the union leader. Less spectacular, the discovery of Gallic and protohistoric levels on the site of the cathedral indicates the archaeological richness of the stratigraphy preserved on the island, the historic heart of Paris. “The excavations which took place on the Île de la Cité can be counted on the fingers of one hand; this is absolutely fundamental and irreplaceable data, we cannot sacrifice it to save five days on a schedule”estimates Séverine Hurard.

Similar Posts