Stone sarcophagi went unopened for 600 years — until now. See what was found inside


Century after century, conversations echoed against the archways of a monastery in Spain. Footsteps shuffled through. Sunlight came and went.

Throughout it all, several stone sarcophagi sat in the wall — undisturbed until now.

Archaeologists began restoration work at the Royal Monastery of Santes Creus last April, the Catalonia Department of Culture said in a Feb. 26 news release. They planned to waterproof the roof and restore the monastery’s well-known tombs.

As part of the project, archaeologists opened six stone sarcophagi built into one of the walls.

The room, referred to as the cloister, is known to house the tombs of several noble families from the 1300s. The stone coffins — massive and elaborate — were hard to miss.

Some of the 600-year-old remains found in a sarcophagus at the monastery.Some of the 600-year-old remains found in a sarcophagus at the monastery.

Some of the 600-year-old remains found in a sarcophagus at the monastery.


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Archaeologists had long assumed the 600-year-old sarcophagi were empty. But when they removed the lid, they found well-preserved human remains inside.

“In principle, there shouldn’t be human remains in such good condition inside the sarcophagi, because they should have been looted,” archaeologist Josep Maria Vila told Catalan News. Instead, the burials were “as the monks had left it.”

Some of the 600-year-old remains found in a sarcophagus at the monastery.Some of the 600-year-old remains found in a sarcophagus at the monastery.

Some of the 600-year-old remains found in a sarcophagus at the monastery.

Inside the six sarcophagi, archaeologists found the remains of eight people identified as Catalan nobility from the 13th and 14th centuries, the department said.

The remains were identified by the “coats of arms” carved on the sarcophagi, Catalan News reported.

An archaeologist studies the 600-year-old remains inside a sarcophagus.An archaeologist studies the 600-year-old remains inside a sarcophagus.

An archaeologist studies the 600-year-old remains inside a sarcophagus.

Photos show what was waiting inside the 600-year-old coffins. Some burials still contained fragments of fabric or other textiles, officials said.

Archaeologists said they’re still analyzing the remains to identify who they belonged to, how they died and other aspects of their daily lives. Restoration work at the monastery is ongoing.

The 600-year-old contents found in a sarcophagus.The 600-year-old contents found in a sarcophagus.

The 600-year-old contents found in a sarcophagus.

The Royal Monastery of Santes Creus is in the Catalonia region and about 40 miles west of Barcelona.

Google Translate was used to translate the news release from the Catalonia Department of Culture.

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