Before the cathedral of Notre Dame lies a plaza.
Until the mid 60's, this site was a warren of buildings dating to the middle ages. It was difficult to view the cathedral in all of its glory. Then, the buildings were torn down, during the course of which archeologists found many remains of early life.
The Archeological Crypt of the Parvis of Notre-Dame was erected by the city of Paris in order to house the (Gallo-Roman to 19th century) vestiges discovered during the excavation undertaken in 1965 by the "Direction des Antiquites historiques de I'Ile de France" (M. Fleury, director) and the "Commission du Vieux Paris". It is the largest structure of this type in the world (total length 118 m., beam length 12 m).
Imbedded in the surface of the plaza are brass strips which locate the streets and buildings that were removed.
Beneath the plaza lies the Crypt (museum). It contains remains of buildings dating back as far as pre-Roman times.
Paris was born on the "Ile de la Cite", at the intersection of a waterway and road. The Island, which formed a natural defensive stronghold, offered a convenient crossing point over a river that separated the two halves of Gaul. The Seine and its tributaries provided mans of communication by water, while the ground provided stone for building and for plaster.
The Paris region was inhabited as early as the early Paleolithic Age. During the second Iron Age, Celtic people came to live there. The Parisii seemed to have settled the island in the middle of the third century B.C. They minted gold coins that indicate their prosperity and artistic sense. Caesar held an assembly in their town in the year 53 B.C. In 52, they revolted to the call of Vercingetorix. Labienus, Caesar's lieutenant, crushed them.
The Romans established a new town on the hills of the Left Bank. The Germanic invasions at the end of the third century A.D. ravaged the Gallo-Roman city. A defensive stronghold was then built on the Ile de la Cite, which was naturally protected by the river as well.
The Crypt contains several parts of the foundations of the surrounding wall, which was built of large stones taken from the damaged or destroyed monuments of the Left Bank city.