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Crusader skeletons discovery sheds new light on the Crusades

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A medieval cemetery pit in Lebanon is shedding new light on the Crusader era in the Middle East.

The Crusades were a series of religious wars that began in the 11th century and lasted until the 13th century, when the Christian crusaders were forced from their last stronghold in what is now Israel and Lebanon.

Scientists examined the DNA of nine Crusaders to be buried in a 13th-century burial pit in the vicinity of a crusader castle near the Lebanese city of Sidon. The study, which is published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, found that the Crusaders were genetically diverse and that they had children with the local population.

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Three of the crusaders were European, four were in the Area, Orientals, and two were of mixed descent, according to the researchers.

Chromo image (of the Liebig figurine series) Duke of Lower Lorraine, Goffredo di Buglione (1061 – 1100), Italy, circa 1900. As Goffredo III (between 1089 – 1100), he took part in the first Crusade (1096 – 1099).
(Photo by Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images)

“Our results give us an unprecedented view of the origin of the people who fought in the Crusader army. And it was not only Europeans,” said the study’s first authorMarc Haber of the U. K. ‘ s Wellcome Sanger Institute, in a statement. “We see this exceptional genetic diversity in the Near East in the middle ages, the Europeans, Near Easterners, and mixed individuals to fight in the Crusades and to live and to die.”

“We know that Richard the Lionheart, went on to fight in the Crusades, but we don’t know much about the ordinary soldiers who lived and died there, and these old samples give us insights into that,” said Chris Tyler-Smith, a genetics researcher at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the study’s senior author.

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However, the traces of the Crusaders DNA “insignificant” under the modern Lebanese people. The researchers noted that other mass migrations, such as the Spanish and Portuguese colonization of South America, have had an impact on the genetic make-up of those regions.

The Crusader bones found in the 13th-century burial pit.
(Claude Doumet-Serhal)

In contrast, the Crusaders, the relatively short duration of its presence in the Middle East, has less of a genetic influence. “They made great efforts to expel them, and succeeded after a few hundred years,” said Tyler-Smith.

The scientists found that the DNA of the modern Lebanese people has more in common with people who live in the region, when it was part of the Roman Empire 2000 years ago.

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Other beautiful Crusader-era discoveries have been garnering attention recently. The room was worshipped as the site of Jesus’ Last Supper, for example, is revealed in the smallest detail, thanks to the remarkable 3D laser scanning technology. The Cenacle is a part of a church, built by the Crusaders on an earlier 4th-century Byzantine church.

The bones is the highlight of the Crusaders of the genetic diversity.
(Claude Doumet-Serhal)

Last year, experts discovered a Gothic hall, a medieval Crusader fortress in northern Israel. The ceremonial hall found in Galilee, the Montfort Castle offers a fascinating glimpse into the turbulent Crusader era in the Holy Land, which began in the 11th century and lasted until the 13th century.

In 2017, the beautiful medieval jewellery was found during the excavation of a Crusader castle on Tittora Hill in the city of Modi ‘in-Maccabim-Re’ut.

In 2016, a centuries-old hand grenade which may date from the time of the Crusaders was among many treasures retrieved from the sea in Israel. The hand grenade was a common weapon in Israel during the Crusader era.

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In the course of decades, archaeologists have also discovered in the ruins of the once thriving Crusader city in the modern Israeli city of akko.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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