Archaeologists recently came across a sarcophagus in Mainz, Germany from a millennium ago. The historical St. Johannis Church was undergoing excavations in 2017 when the stone coffin that was lying untouched for 1,000 years was first discovered. After several months of further preparations and excavations, the team of 14 were able to remove the stone top weighing roughly 700kg (1543lbs) on Tuesday utilizing a system of pulleys.
“Such a long preparation time and then the lid opens,” said the lead archaeologist, Guido Faccani. “That was a unique moment. We quickly discovered that many scraps of fabric were present in the sarcophagus.” A pieces of the fabric will be analysed by a textile specialist in an effort to determine how old it is.
The Dean of Mainz, Andreas Klodt, commented at a news conference saying, “So many generations of us have sung, doubted, prayed, and hoped in this building”. He added “I am proud that we have builders in this church and can celebrate Mass.”
Inside the coffin
Unfortunately the remains inside the coffin were entirely decayed. “Not even teeth could be found,” said Faccani. “The deceased was likely doused in quicklime at the time of his burial in order to speed up the decaying process.” However, tissue and bone samples will be subjected to carbon dating and DNA processing.
The President of the protestant deanery of Mainz, Birgit Pfeiffer, stated, “We were speechless, fascinated by the opening of the sarcophagus. Now it will be a great challenge for us to deal with the discoveries and the church, and how to make it accessible to the general public.”
Experts assume the buried mystery individual could have been a clergyman as they were buried facing the altar, in a very central area in the nave of the church. Faccani thinks it could have been Archbishop of Mainz, Erkanbald, who died in 1021.