This is very surprising news. Four hundred years after they were buried in heart-shaped lead urns, five embalmed human hearts have been discovered in a cemetery in northwestern France.
Scientists said they were able to peer inside those organs with modern medical imaging techniques, revealing the hearts’ chambers, valves and arteries, some still bearing marks of disease.
The hearts were discovered underneath the basement of the Convent of the Jacobins in Rennes, where archaeologists with France’s National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research have been excavating graves for the past several years, ahead of a plan to turn the site into a conference center.
So far, the archaeologists have unearthed hundreds of burials dating back to the late 16th or early 17th centuries, including the well-preserved corpse of a widow named Louise de Quengo, Lady of Brefeillac, who died in 1656. De Quengo’s body had been sealed in a lead coffin, and when that container was opened for an autopsy recently, the woman’s clothes —a cape, linen shirt, wool leg warmers and cork-soled shoes —were remarkably still intact, according to a report in The Guardian.