In France, archaeologists for the first time showed the general public a unique golden fabric and other artifacts found during the study of two hundred ancient tombs. As reported on the website of the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research of France (Inrap), the finds were made during excavations in the early Christian church of Saint-Pierre-l’Estrier.
Work there started in 2020, they were jointly carried out by employees of Inrap and the archaeological service of the city of Autun. In total, about 230 ancient tombs have been excavated. Inside them, the researchers found what they say are exceptional items, including gold jewelry, pins made of jet (a type of coal) and amber, as well as an unparalleled diatreta – an ancient domed vessel.
A lead sarcophagus dating back to the 4th century AD was found in one of the tombs. From above, it was almost completely covered with a large piece of fabric, dyed purple and woven with gold threads. Currently, this artifact, valuable in all respects, is the subject of laboratory analysis. And only as an exception, archaeologists presented to the general public a small piece of fabric.
The very fact that it was painted purple speaks volumes. Purple in those days was “the color of luxury.” In ancient Rome, it was a kind of distinctive sign, indicating wealth and belonging to the elite. In this case, the fabric was woven using very thin and skillfully made gold threads, which only emphasizes the important position in society of a person buried in a lead sarcophagus.
Archaeologists note that purple, but without gold, fabric was found in several more graves. Probably the necropolis of Saint-Pierre-l’Estriers, which has been in operation since the beginning of the third century AD, was originally intended for the elite, for the local aristocrats, perhaps for the earliest Christians of the local community.