14 April 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

A bronze seal matrix of St George slaying the dragon has been discovered at the royal Château of Villers-Cotterêts in northern France

A previously unpublished and unknown bronze seal matrix of Saint George slaying the dragon has been discovered at the royal Château of Villers-Cotterêts in northern France.

This royal residence was built in 1528 by François I, who signed the famous decree of Villers-Cotterêts in August 1539 the edict that replaced Latin with French in all official acts of law and government.  It is the oldest French law still in force in French courts today.

Archaeological excavations, led by archaeologists from the Inrap and Aisne archaeological service, began in the spring of 2020 near the royal residence and on the tennis court. A second search by Inrap in November 2020 concerned the courtyard of the Offices. Since January 2021, archaeologists have been monitoring the work in the house and examining structures in all buildings.

The seal was discovered in a coal pouch in a room in the north wing of the castle.

Photo: Serge Le Maho, Inrap

The seal matrix is circular with a pierced mount on the back from which the seal could be worn on a chain around the neck or tied to a belt. It is hollow engraved on the obverse with a mounted horseman in full plate armor. Under the legs of the rearing horse is a dragon. It is bordered with a beaded edge and inscribed “IP PRI/EUR / DEVILLERS / LESM / OINE”.

The inscription indicates the seal belonged to the prior of the Saint George Monastery in Villers-Les-Moines which was a half-mile stroll from the Chateau of Villers-Cotterêts. Very little is known about this priory, which makes the discovery of the prior’s seal even more historically significant.

Seal matrices were extremely important in the Middle Ages, the sole means of confirming the authenticity of a signature, and as such were customarily destroyed or buried with the owner after death. For one to be tossed in with the coals it was almost certainly lost by accident, perhaps by someone warming himself at a fireplace, and was inadvertently discarded with the ashes by staff.

Profile seal matrix. Photo: Serge Le Maho, Inrap
Profile seal matrix. Photo: Serge Le Maho, Inrap

In the Middle Ages, the only way to authenticate a document was a seal. Seal matrices were incredibly important in the Middle Ages, as they were the only way to verify the legitimacy of a signature. As a result, they were often destroyed or buried with the owner after death.

The owner of this seal probably lost it by accident, was inadvertently discarded with the ashes by staff.

This unexpected discovery demonstrates the contribution of archeology to the knowledge of history. After the fieldwork is completed, the scientists will be able to closely link archaeological, archival, and historical research, to investigate not only the archeology of the castle but also the relationship between the castle and its political-historical environment.

INRAP

Cover Photo: Serge Le Maho / Inrap

Related Articles

Ancient Roman city of Pompeii, archaeologists have unearthed a fresco depicting the Greek mythological siblings Phrixus and Helle

2 March 2024

2 March 2024

Archaeologists excavating a house adjacent to the House of Leda in Insula 6, Regio V, in the ancient Roman city...

The excavation, which started in a cave in Turkey’s Mardin, turned into a huge underground city

19 April 2022

19 April 2022

In an underground city known used as a settlement in the early Christian era, in the Midyat district of Mardin,...

Severe drought in Italy unearths remains of an ancient bridge in Rome

15 July 2022

15 July 2022

Continued severe heat in Italy has uncovered an archaeological treasure in Rome: a bridge reportedly built by the Roman emperor...

Scientists discover 4 new Nazca Geoglyphs using AI deep learning

4 June 2023

4 June 2023

Scientists from Japan used AI deep learning to discover new geoglyphs in the Arid Peruvian coastal plain, in the northern...

A first in 35 years! Child grave with bracelets and gifts found in ancient city of Kelenderis

25 June 2022

25 June 2022

During this year’s excavations in the ancient city of Kelenderis, founded on the Mediterranean coast in the southern province of...

5,000-year-old Settlement Unearthed in Al Mudhaibi, Oman

3 January 2023

3 January 2023

The Oman News Agency announced that a 5,000-year-old settlement was discovered during archaeological excavations at the Al Gharyein archaeological site...

Exceptional discovery of a fully frescoed chamber tomb dating back to the Republican and Imperial Roman ages

10 October 2023

10 October 2023

Waterworks in Giugliano, a suburb of Campania (Naples), have uncovered an untouched chamber tomb full of frescoes ceilings, and walls...

Family Looking for Lost Gold Earring Finds Viking Age Artifacts in Their Garden on the Island Of Jomfruland

2 October 2023

2 October 2023

A family in Norway was searching for a lost gold earring in their yard on the island of Jomfruland when...

Archaeologists conducting excavations at the Roman Fort of Apsaros in Georgia, found evidence of the Legion X Fretensis

27 May 2023

27 May 2023

Polish scientists discovered that Legion X Fretensis, known for its brutal suppression of Jewish uprisings, was stationed in the early...

New Evidence could Change the Date People First Arrived in North America

2 June 2021

2 June 2021

While investigating the origins of agriculture, researchers made an unexpected discovery. According to an unexpected finding made by an Iowa...

Egypt discovers five 4,000-year-old ancient tombs in Saqqara necropolis

19 March 2022

19 March 2022

The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced recently the discovery of five 4,000-year-old ancient tombs in the Saqqara archaeological...

1700-year-old weaving workshop discovered in southeast Turkey

4 December 2021

4 December 2021

Excavations carried out in the ancient city of Perre in the southeastern province of Adıyaman have unearthed a 1,700-year-old weaving...

Hundreds Of Mummified Bees inside their Cocoons from the Time of the Pharaohs found in Portugal

25 August 2023

25 August 2023

Hundreds of mummified bees inside their cocoons have been found on the southwest coast of Portugal, in a new paleontological...

The Oklahoma City Museum of Art will launch “The Painters of Pompeii” on June 26

23 June 2021

23 June 2021

A number of collection highlights will travel to North America for the first time as part of the exhibition The...

Iron Age Children’s a Unique Funerary Building Discovered in Oman

3 March 2024

3 March 2024

Archaeologists have uncovered a unique Iron Age children’s funerary building at the Manaqi archaeological site in Rustaq, South Al Batinah...