National Geographic : 1989 Jul
bottom some 250,000 fragments of pottery-jugs, jars, cups, cooking pots, pitchers, and saucepans-all of which may be safely dated to the decades just before 1528, since the moat was cleaned out every 40 years or so. They have also found in the two moats pieces of windows, tiles, clothing, baskets, leather, coins, and other discarded items of daily life, including part of a bird-shaped whistle. There was even one cooking pot with the bones of a pigeon still in it. Cooks tossed scraps of food into the moat, revealing a varied menu: farm-bred animals such as cattle, goats, and poultry; game such as wild boar, deer, and hare; carp, pike, ray, turtle, A Castle Under the Louvre mussels, and oysters. The castle occupants also enjoyed apricots, peaches, grapes, plums, figs, melons, and chestnuts. The biggest surprise came from the tower well, where workers retrieved 155 fragments of a late 14th-century gilded bronze helmet. "They were thrown in there by a thief," says archaeologist Michel Fleury (above), who identified the ceremonial helmet as belonging to Charles VI. "You can see the scratches the thief left on the metal. When he realized it was bronze, not gold, he broke it up and dropped the pieces into the well." Fleury recognized the helmet from a description in a royal in ventory prepared in 1411. It was said to have a distinctive crest and to be covered not only with the fleur-de-lis, the traditional symbol of French royalty, but also with the winged stag, Charles's personal emblem. "To me the helmet represents the despair of the Hundred Years' War," says Fleury. "The monarchy had been weak ened by the long struggle with England, and the young king's uncles were vying for power. Charles was also known to suf fer bouts of insanity. So it was very important that his helmet display both the royal symbol and his own to show the people that he was truly king." Besides fragments from the gilded helmet, hundreds of other bits of metal were discovered in the old castle, including part of a scabbard from a 14th-century sword and a piece of a second helmet belonging to Charles's son, the Dauphin Louis. "When we started," says Fleury, "everybody told us we wouldn't find a thing. We've gotten a wonderful revenge on them!"