Owners of the Monoprix supermarket on Rue de Sebastopol in Paris wanted to add extra storage space, so they hired builders to come in and add space in the store’s basement. The builders followed usual protocol, calling in archaeologists from the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) to do a preliminary check before they started building. Then the scene set itself up like the script of a horror movie.

Store manager Pascal Roy summed up what they found for the AFP News Agency,

“We figured there’d be a few bones there considering it used to be the site of a cemetery—but we didn’t expect to find mass graves.”

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The supermarket was built on the site of a hospital called Trinité, which the Telegraph reports functioned from approximately the 12th to the 17th centuries. Bodies interred there were believed to have been transferred to the Paris Catacombs in the 18th century.

In what could be the archaeological find of the year, the team dug up a total of 8 chambers filled with skeletons; the eight pit held 150 skeletons all together, buried in layers up to five bodies deep. Archaeologist Isabelle Abadie told the Telegraph,

What is surprising is that the bodies were not thrown into the graves but placed there with care. The individuals—men, women and children—were placed head to toe no doubt to save space.”

mass grave 2

Abadie added,

“The fact that so many people were buried together, that the grave is this large, tends to show us that there was a major mortality crisis. The crisis may have resulted from an epidemic, famine, or extreme fever.”

INRAP plans to do some DNA testing and carbon dating to confirm their suspicions that the people buried in these mass graves died as a result of one of the plagues or famines that swept France at the time. All the bodies did appear to have been buried at the same time, which lends weight to theories that these were victims of the plagues that ravaged Paris through the 14th through 16th centuries. Some pieces of medieval ceramics were also found buried among the human remains, as well as more recent pottery. These items will also be tested to determine their age.

monoThe bodies were found under a Monoprix supermarket in Paris, a site which was formerly a hospital. (Photo: INRAP)

Store manager Pascal Roy told France 24 that some of his employees are disturbed by the discovery, and are not interested in checking it out in person. The archaological site is currently closed to the public while INRAP continues its research.

It took until 2014 for the Paris Catacombs to finally get its own horror movie. With an unbelievable story like this, we won’t be surprised if a supermarket zombie flick is next year’s summer blockbuster.

[via France 24, the Telegraph]