Fourteen centuries of discoveries
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Arches of the Lutetian aqueduct in the Arcueil-Cachan valley in 1585-1586. Drawing by Arnold Van Buchel. Utrecht Library.

Ancient graves discovered in the early 17th century on the site of the Hôtel d'Anjou. Drawing by Paul Petau. Bibliothèque de l'Institut. The meticulous care with which this "antiquarian" measured and drew archaeological objects renders this document still useful to archaeologists today.
Dessin d'Arnold Van Buchel. Bibliothèque d'Utrecht

Bibliothèque de l'Institut.
  Omens and legends in the Middle Ages

Literary texts from the Middle Ages tell us that discoveries of objects from antiquity were sources of legends. Grégoire de Tours, the famous 6th century chronicler, tells of the discovery of a bronze dormouse and serpent in a Parisian gutter; these were taken as omens that the city would be destroyed by fire. In the 12th century, the « arena » was described as "a large circus [.] whose ruins are immense". In the 14th century, walls that were demolished during the digging of a ditch were thought to be the work of the Sarrasins. We now know that they were part of the forum.

Antiquarians of the modern era

The desire to give a reasoned interpretation of the city's ruins appeared only in the modern era. Discoveries of tombs were widely reported, giving rise to a spirit of scientific enquiry. Henri Sauval, the first great historian of Paris, gave very detailed accounts of the excavation of tombs, mausoleums and inscriptions, and Paul Petau produced precise drawings of ancient tombs and their contents. Scholars also began to probe the nature of the ruins on the slopes of Montmartre, which they correctly thought to be of pagan origin. The discovery of the Boatmen's Pillar in 1710, with its dedication to Tiberius and the mysterious figures carved on it, gave rise to many theories-including one from Leibnitz himself. . Interest in monumental ruins spurred a number of investigations. The antiquity of the Cluny Baths was acknowledged, even if those who built it remained shrouded in legend-it was variously described as a palace of Caesar, Julian or the Merovingian kings.