Doctor Philippe Charlier, from exquisite corpses to initiation into voodoo

As far back as he can remember, Philippe Charlier has always loved archaeology. At the age of 6, he digs everywhere in the family garden and ends up discovering, astonished and fascinated, the skeleton of a mole. At the age of 12, he was taken on an internship on an excavation site, in a cemetery. With a shovel, he breaks a skull and bursts into tears. “I was afraid of having done something stupid. » The question of the respect that the living owe to the dead will never leave him, just like his passion for exploring graves.

But archeology will wait until he has walked in the footsteps of his parents, respectively a country doctor and a pharmacist. Born on June 25, 1977 in Meaux (Seine-et-Marne), Philippe Charlier received his baccalaureate at the age of 16 and enrolled in medical school. “You wouldn’t have liked me back thenhe slips without irony. I never left libraries, books were my best friends, and I was terribly arrogant. »

Repeating the first year helps him to come down to earth. He allows himself more freedom and levity, attends conferences in archeology and art history, and goes on an internship at excavation sites around the Mediterranean.

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This passion would later earn him the nickname of“Indiana Jones of the Cemeteries”. The image can irritate him, so much the archaeologist of cinema desecrates the ruins and the tombs, without scientific integrity or respect for the dead. But, like him, Philippe Charlier seems to cultivate a double life of scientist and adventurer, impeccable suit and tie on one side, leather jacket and three-day beard on the other.

Three doctorates and some polemics

In a first life, he more often put on his white coat as a forensic doctor for justice, then as head doctor at the Hauts-de-Seine remand center. At the same time, his historical autopsies of corpses Cold Case: Closed Cases make it known to the general public. With other specialists, he studies the remains attributed to Richard Coeur de Lion, Diane de Poitiers and Louis IX. And it pleases: his investigations into Marat, Robespierre and Descartes are broadcast again this Thursday evening on France 5.

Philippe Charlier also excels in the media and in very popular programs such as Secrets of history. In interviews, he shares his encyclopaedic knowledge as if he were telling the scenario of a thriller, without ever looking down on his interlocutors or oversimplifying.

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This success and his taste for light inevitably attracted criticism, in particular for his reconstruction of the faces of historical figures from skulls attributed to them – Robespierre and Henri IV in particular. As reported The world in 2014, with the article “Controversies over the supposed skull of Henri IV”, several experts questioned his methodology and the rigor of his results, accused of being spectacular but unscientific. He replies that he accepts any criticism that advances techniques for reconstructing faces, while denouncing quarrels linked to the political aura of these characters.

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Doctor Philippe Charlier, from exquisite corpses to initiation into voodoo

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