Journey to the Center of the Earth. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Around the World in Eighty Days. While some may quibble whether these are three of the greatest science fiction novels ever or just great stories that have entertained readers and movie-goers for over a century, it’s agreed that author Jules Verne had a major influence on the genre. And now, to the delight of old and new fans, Jules may be making a comeback. A metal box unearthed this month near the French Pyrenees in the Occitanie region of southern France is believed to have been buried at the end of the 19th century by Jules Verne and contains papers and possibly unpublished works by the author.
Using materials collected and analyzed from Verne’s tomb in Amiens in northern France, archaeologists and historians from the Paris Descartes University and The Explorers Club NYC found clues suggesting objects pertaining to him might be located in the Occitanie region. Beginning in September 2016, they used geolocation algorithms to narrow down the possible sites and searched with drones and ground-penetrating radar until finally finding the metal box which experts believe belonged to Jules Verne or someone very close to him. The “time capsule” was removed and taken to a laboratory with a controlled environment for study.
So far, the box has only been examined with X-rays and, unfortunately, it and the materials inside show deterioration from being buried since the late 1800s – Verne died on March 24, 1905. According to Paris Descartes University Field Archaeologist Elouan Beauséjour, the papers appear damp and crumbling and the engravings on the inside of the box are nearly illegible. Other things that can be identified include books and metal objects. Beauséjour says the examination has moved to a more detailed phase that may involve opening the box in a sterile and preservative environment. He plans to issue a statement as this progresses.
The books are obviously of great interest to fans of Verne. Are they finished or unfinished novels? The author’s massive body of work includes the sequence of 54 books known as the Voyages Extraordinaires (Extraordinary Voyages or Extraordinary Journeys) which were published between 1863 and 1905 and surprisingly includes works of non-fiction covering geology, biology, astronomy, paleontology, oceanography, geography and other sciences. His three most famous novels have been adapted to film, TV and stage in various forms that have both stayed close to the author’s words and strayed far away into areas such as comedy (The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze.)
Whatever is in the time capsule, Jules Verne would have had no trouble turning its discovery into an exciting adventure tale.