The subterranean chamber was discovered by an English adventurer, Ben Hammott, using a hidden code in the decor of the church at Rennes-le-Chateauin left behind by the 19th century priest, Berenger Sauniere.
Relics were not removed, although the team was able to extract a few hair strands from the corpse, which have undergone testing by the Paleo-DNA Laboratory at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada. “Like most ancient or degraded samples, we knew our best chance for successful results would be to focus our efforts on mitochondrial DNA,” said analyst Renee Praymack Fratpietro. “We were able to determine a Middle Eastern maternal origin of the individual based on haplotyping information. After we found out where this hair sample came from, we realized the significance of this work.”
Given the DNA results, the region’s Templar history and the legend of priest Sauniere which indicated that he found a tomb in the area, this is a staggering find.
The DRAC Commissioner in the region, Jean-Pierre Giraud said: “This is certainly a very intriguing discovery, but it’s just too early to tell how important it is. We need to do a full survey of the site to determine the age of the corpse and the other items in the tomb. The archeology department of the DRAC-LR will be carrying out an examination of the site as soon as access has been made possible.”
The area surrounding Rennes-le-Chateau features prominently in the bloodline legend which follows the premise that Mary Magdalene escaped Jerusalem with child, sailed to France and settled in the region.