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Buried Treasure: French Hotel Excavation Unearths Jewelry, Coins and Hidden 600-Year-Old Castle Fortress

French Mansion Excavation Finds Remains of 600-Year-Old Castle
Source: National Institute of Archaeological Research

The excavation in northern France revealed the remains of a medieval castle and moat.

Apr. 6 2024, Published 1:03 p.m. ET

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An excavation of a hotel in northwestern France’s city of Vannes has unearthed the remains of a Medieval castle as well as jewelry, coins and household objects.

The discovery was made during a dig between February and April 2023, in advance of building a fine arts museum, has learned.

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While archaeologists were aware of the site, they were not prepared for the extent of the finds, France’s National Institute of Archaeological Research (INRAP) announced recently.

The dig was carried out as part of what INRAP called “preventative archaeology,” ahead of the construction of the future museum, in the current courtyard of the Lagorce Hotel, a private mansion built at the end of the 18th century on the ruins of the medieval castle.

According to INRAP, the dig, which was commissioned by the City of Vannes, discovered the remains of Château de l'Hermine, built by the Duke of Brittany Jean IV in the 1380s.

Archaeologists believe that the construction of the castle was extremely organized, as they discovered markings on some of the ancient stones that seemed to be workers' way of following a building plan, CBS News reported.

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After cutting through a thick embankment in the courtyard, excavators discovered two fairly well-preserved stories of the ancient, fortress-like castle.

The castle measured 137 feet long by 56 feet wide, and its walls were up to 18 feet thick. The castle was directly bordered by a moat and flanked to the east by what INRAP called a “square tower.”

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Archaeologists also uncovered several staircases, including a well-preserved ceremonial staircase, while outside the castle itself, latrines and drainage pipes were also uncovered.

Inside, archaeologists were surprised to discover a water mill integrated in the residential space of the square tower. While the mill itself was no longer there, the place where the wheel fit into the masonry was visible.

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The remains of a wooden bridge connected to the entrance of the castle was also discovered, which archaeologists said would have connected residents to the city.

The archaeologists manually searched the latrines and drainage pipes, which unearthed many objects reflecting daily life in the castle dating from the 15th and 16th centuries, including coins, jewelry, pots and pans, as well as wooden bowls and fragments of barrels.

According to INRAP, the objects likely survived due to the humidity in the environment. A search of the moat revealed everyday objects including shoe or clothing buckles, metal dishes, as well as keys and padlocks for furniture and boxes.

INRAP said that in 1381 the Duke of Brittany constructed fortresses in the area “in order to assert his power.” He built the Château de l'Hermine, in Vannes, which went on to become one of the strongholds and was part of the southward expansion of the city ramparts.

According to INRAP, the castle was abandoned in the 1470s.

“Almost absent from the archives, the building only appears as ruins on plans from the 17th century,” INRAP noted.


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