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The Seine, the river that winds through the heart of Paris, has been the silent witness of the tumultuous history of the city for millennia. Beyond its roles as a navigable waterway, a boundary and a source of artistic inspiration, the Seine is also an unexpected repository of historical treasures, revealing fragments of Parisian daily life, from prehistoric times to the present.

A fascinating exhibition titled “In the Seine — Found Objects from Prehistory to Today” opens a window into this submerged world, currently on display at the Archaeological Crypt of the Île de la Cité. The exhibition offers a unique exploration of nearly 150 objects that have been discovered in the depths of the river. These artifacts, which vary greatly in nature and era, provide a rare and often unexpected glimpse into Parisian history. Among the exhibited items, one finds curiosities such as a disco ball, a bidet, a sled, a refrigerator and even medical infusion equipment. Each object, a relic of its time, tells a story, whether everyday, exceptional or tragic.

One of the most captivating aspects of this exhibition is how these objects reflect the various facets of Parisian life through the ages. For example, the presence of a bidet in the Seine might evoke images of Parisian domestic life, while a submerged disco ball could be the silent witness of a forgotten party by the water. Each object, by its mere presence, suggests narratives of daily life, festivities, crises or changes.

Recovering these treasures is no small feat. River archaeology, a specialized branch of archaeology, is dedicated to exploring waterways to discover artifacts. The challenges are numerous, ranging from often reduced visibility underwater to the complex logistics of extracting sometimes heavy or delicate objects. Moreover, being an active river, the currents of the Seine can move or damage artifacts, making their recovery even more difficult.

The objects found in the Seine offer a mirror of the social and cultural evolution of Paris. For instance, artifacts from the medieval period tell a story of commerce and daily life, while those from modern times may reflect political turbulences or social changes. Each era deposits its own testimonies in the river, intentionally or accidentally.

The exhibition “In the Seine” also raises important questions about the conservation of cultural goods and public education. By making these objects accessible, the exhibition educates the public about the importance of the Seine in the history of Paris, strengthening the connection between Parisians and their river.

The Seine is much more than just a body of water for Paris; it is a time capsule, a repository of life moments that, together, weave the rich tapestry of Parisian history. The exhibition “In the Seine — Found Objects from Prehistory to Today” offers a unique opportunity to discover these hidden treasures, reminding us that each object found in its waters has a story to tell.

The exhibition “In the Seine — Found Objects from Prehistory to Today” is held at the Archaeological Crypt of the Île de la Cité in Paris until January 31, 2025.

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