An ancient Islamic necropolis with thousands of human remains has been unearthed in the northeastern part of Spain. Within the five-acre site (with at least two levels), archaeologists have excavated over 400 tombs with more than 4,500 bodies recovered so far.
The tombs were unearthed at a burial site in the town of Tauste (near Zaragoza city). Based on carbon dating as well as DNA analysis, the necropolis dates back between the 8th and 11th centuries.
By the year 711, the Iberian Peninsula was being invaded by the Arab forces and they stayed there until 1492 when it was reclaimed by the Christian kingdoms. In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Javier Nunez Arce, who is the head of the Elpatiaz Cultural Association, said that the bell tower from the Catholic church had been converted from a minaret (which is a tall slim tower with a balcony that is found on mosques). “Therefore, it is clear that a Muslim community with a mosque used to live in this town,” he noted.
It was previously thought that Muslims in Tauste were “incidental and even non-existent” although the cultural association from that area did speculate that a big Islamic settlement did exist there at one time based on ancient human skeletons and some architecture. And now with the discovery of the necropolis, it proves that they were in fact there several centuries ago.
The first dig at the site occurred in 2010 and since then, local authorities asked for more excavations to be conducted and that’s when archaeologists discovered the hundreds of tombs and thousands of bodies. In an interview with CNN, Miriam Pina Pardos, who is the director of the Anthropological Observatory of the Islamic Necropolis of Tauste with the El Patiaz cultural association, stated, “It's rare to do an excavation and to find 400 tombs. It's amazing.”
She went on to say that all of the deceased were buried according to Islamic traditions where the bodies were laying on their right side and facing the southeast region towards Mecca. Eva Gimenez, who is an archaeologist excavating the site with the Paleoymás archaeology firm, told CNN, “We can see that the Muslim culture and Islamic presence in this area is more important than we thought,” adding, “We can see there was a big Muslim population here in Tauste from the beginning of the presence of Muslims in Spain.” “It is very important -- the 400 Muslim tombs shows the people lived here for centuries.”
Pictures of the excavation site can be seen here.