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Medieval tombs found in major Geneva dig
Photo: Service cantonal d'architecture (SCA), Etat de Genève

Medieval tombs found in major Geneva dig

Published: 30 Aug 2012 08:36 GMT+02:00
Updated: 30 Aug 2012 09:26 GMT+02:00

Archaeologists digging in an area being renovated in Geneva’s Old Town recently stumbled upon a major find.

Traces of medieval fortifications, vestiges of a medieval church, 15 tombs dating back to the sixth century and skeletons were uncovered, providing historians with a treasure trove of material to fill in gaps in the city’s history.

The findings were made public this week by city officials, including the cantonal archaeologist Jean Terrier, mayor of the city Rémy Pagani and Francois Longchamp, cabinet minister responsible for the canton’s archaeology department..

The historic remains were uncovered on an esplanade during digs that accompanied work begun in April to redevelop the bastion of Saint Antoine, once part of the fortified walls that ringed Geneva.

“Some surprises were expected but not as big as this,” Longchamp commented during a press conference at the site, located near the Collège Calvin, the high school founded by 16th century protestant reformer Jean Calvin.

The redevelopment project has been put on hold for at least six months to allow archaeologists to continue digging in the area.

The tombs unearthed are believed to have been located inside the Saint Laurent church, a building that was destroyed in 1527 to allow for the construction of ramparts.

The fortifications were subsequently rebuilt several times between the 16th and 18th centuries.

Part of a wall for the church was discovered.

In addition to the tombs, skeletons were found at different levels that experts believe could be the remains of bodies of plague victims from the 16th century buried directly in the earth.

Among other revelations is a stone passage or bunker used by soldiers to reach chambers where they could fire weapons at enemies.

The canton of Geneva has not yet decided what to do with the historic remains, although it says public tours of the site will be offered.

The findings will be analyzed in laboratories with results to be published in public documents, the government said.

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

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