Into the depths of Paris

  • Last Updated: Friday, 03 September 2021 12:02
  • Published: Sunday, 23 August 2009 14:13
  • Written by ArkeoTopia translated by Trevor Donovan and Margarida Ataide
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Saturday the 24th and Saturday the 31st of January, members of Arkeotopia and other curious participants descended into the subterranean depths of Paris, with the objective of exploring the Capuchin quarry under Cochin Hospital.

Into the depths of Paris
presentation of a guided tour

Even if the origins of these Parisian quarries go as far back as the Gallo-Roman period (Saint Geneviève hill in the 5th district for limestone, the top of Montmartre in the 18th district for gypsum), the two tours gave participants the opportunity to travel back to the recent past, principally to the 18th and 19th centuries.

The speakers of the guided tourAfter a first descent and a quick visit, ArkeoTopia joined up with SEADACC (Consulting and planning society for the ancient Capuchin quarries) and its president Philippe Thévenon. The second visit was much longer, thanks to the eloquent and knowledgeable Jean-Michel Vitry, treasurer of SEADACC. Presented by Jean-Olivier Gransard-Desmond, President of ArkeoTopia and independent archeologist, the representatives of SEADACC introduced the visitors to the role of the quarry-worker and some associated occupations (drivers, carters, engineers, quarry inspectors, plasterers)

A large wheel for the extraction of building stoneWithout going into too much detail, the emphasis was put on the different tools and their functions used by the quarry men. As such, a sample group of tools was presented, including picks and their specific points (reversed, flat…), hammers, (mass, plump, mallet), wedges, lighting, ladders etc. Jean-Michel Vitry then explained the relationship between the Capuchin quarry and certain monuments found throughout Paris, such as the Saint-Séverin church, which was built entirely with stone extracted from the Capuchin.

IGC inspection tunnelsIt was also the occasion for participants to discover the risks surrounding ancient quarries, such as accidents caused by cave-ins, in particular the gypsum quarries of northern Paris. The IGC play an important role still to this day, for example undertaking quarry inspections (see l’Inspection Générale des Carrières page available on the Paris City website).

L'épure de la fontaine de la carrière de CochinStaying close to its objective to valorize archeological research, as well as other organizations pertaining to the field, ArkeoTopia took the opportunity to highlight the SEADACC’s role of conservation and development.
Even if the research in archeology is not the main focus of the association, cataphile archeologists will immediately see their value. This is due to the fact that they possess a veritable treasure composed of images and archives of the quarries and the catacombs that deserve to be published.Vue du groupe de visiteurs dans le musée de la carrière de Cochin

In this computer age, it is a shame that these resources have never become the object of archeological analysis, this knowledge remaining principally historical, but the doors are always open, says Jean-Michel Vitry. Calling all amateurs.

To learn more

You would like too to visit the quarries?
Contact us to reserve your tour for the ArkaeoOdyssey intitled Under the cobblestones, the city.

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