Archaeological treasures recovered from the Seine are the subject of an exhibition in Paris

Archaeological treasures recovered from the Seine are the subject of an exhibition in Paris

In front of the Seine, Narcisse would have been incapable of contemplating himself. And for good reason: the mud darkens its water and keeps buried the secrets that lie dormant in its bed. Fortunately, these archaeological treasures are sporadically brought to the surface. The river brigade’s chance finds during its monitoring dives are added to the archaeologists’ discoveries each year. 150 emblematic objects, exhibited in the archaeological crypt of the Île de la Cité, take us back in time, from prehistory to the present day.

In the beginning were mammoth bones. These animals came to quench their thirst in the Seine, whose wild course dotted with sandbanks must then have resembled today’s Loire. Then, flint tools, found in Clichy-la-Garenne in 2020, prove that a group of Neanderthals walked on its banks: they took shelter on one of its islets from where they could watch for the approach of a danger. We had to wait for the Romans to cross the river on dry ground. In Lutèce a first bridge was erected, of which a wooden log remains, the vestige of an old pilot. All these objects reconstruct the great collective history but each also tells a personal trajectory. Was the 19th century pocket pistol, for example, thrown into the water after a settling of scores, as the police approached? Unless it’s a duel? Imagination allows all scenarios.

The water of Notre-Dame

The greatest mystery of the Seine is spiritual. Since Antiquity, it has been attributed supernatural powers. Pilgrims went back to its source to implore Sequana, the healing goddess who gave her name to the river. This is evidenced by these ex-votos, often sculptures representing a piece of anatomy: a head, an arm or a leg. History that the goddess knows precisely where to locate the evil to be healed.

The waves of the Seine have retained their power of fascination over Christians. Many effigies of saints have been found, particularly around Notre-Dame, where its water was considered the most sacred. The exhibition is also held at the foot of the cathedral: we come out to look at the river with new eyes. And we say that the greatest miracle of the Seine probably remains the city of Paris which owes everything to its beneficial watercourse.

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