Medieval sarcophagi unearthed during the BHNS construction site


They are already at about forty burials, including 35 stone sarcophagi. At the end of December, archaeologists from the Bordeaux Métropole preventive archeology center unearthed a High Middle Ages necropolis, dating from the 6th and 8th centuries, around the Place des Martyrs-de-la-Résistance, near the Saint-Seurin basilica in Bordeaux, as part of the BHNS project (high level service bus).

The excavation site should last at least until the end of May
The excavation site should last at least until the end of May – CAP Bordeaux Métropole

“There are certainly several burial phases, those without a sarcophagus being probably more recent, specifies Camille Vanhove, archaeologist specializing in anthropology and head of the preventive archeology service. All the remains – bones, ceramics, sarcophagi… – will be collected and then analyzed in the laboratory, to determine the age of the bones, the sex, any pathologies that may have reached the bones… We will thus also have an idea of ​​the state of health [des défunts], which will give indications on their access to food, and therefore on their social rank. But you should know that at that time, this mode of burial in sarcophagi was quite widespread in the region, where the stone was easily accessible. »

“We couldn’t open everything at once”

The excavations, which only really started in January, should continue in several phases, “at least until the end of May”, estimates the archaeologist. The goal is indeed to work “intelligently” with the BHLS site without penalizing its schedule, while maintaining a traffic lane. “We couldn’t open everything at once. »

The bones will be collected and then analyzed in the laboratory to determine their age.
The bones will be collected and then analyzed in the laboratory to determine their age. – CAP Bordeaux Metropolis

Will this excavation site be as prolific as that of Saint-Médard-en-Jalles, where 700 sarcophagi from the Carolingian period were discovered last July? The “background noise”, as we say in the jargon, is rather positive, and we know that the district already shelters a necropolis which was used from Antiquity until the 18th century. “Many sarcophagi have already been found around the basilica,” recalls Camille Vanhove. The excavations on this new perimeter should make it possible to advance knowledge of the limits of this necropolis.


“We leave some for the archaeologists of the future…”

If the archaeologists are therefore rather optimistic about the continuation of the excavations, they do not hide a slight frustration either. They actually work within the framework of preventive archaeology, which is strictly supervised. “We first had to carry out an archaeological diagnosis, and wait for a prescription from the State to start the excavations, which can only be done within the limits of the development works of the BHNS station on which we are, namely 1.10 meters deep. ” 110 cm is already good, but it will prevent archaeologists from exploring ” all the archaeological levels, while there are traces of ancient remains below… ” ” But hey, positive Camille Vanhove, we on a leash for the archaeologists of the future…”

For this, it will be necessary to wait a little, because there should not be any more new excavations within the framework of the BHLS, its work entering its final phase. The express bus between Bordeaux and Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc must indeed enter circulation by spring 2024.

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