Early medieval Muslim graves discovery in France

Early medieval Muslim grave in Nimes, France


Early Medieval Muslim Graves in France: First Archaeological, Anthropological and Palaeogenomic Evidence

February 24, 2016


The rapid Arab-Islamic conquest during the early Middle Ages led to major political and cultural changes in the Mediterranean world. Although the early medieval Muslim presence in the Iberian Peninsula is now well documented, based in the evaluation of archeological and historical sources, the Muslim expansion in the area north of the Pyrenees has only been documented so far through textual sources or rare archaeological data.

Our study provides the first archaeo-anthropological testimony of the Muslim establishment in the South of France through the multidisciplinary analysis of three graves excavated at Nîmes. First, we argue in favor of burials that followed Islamic rites and then note the presence of a community practicing Muslim traditions in Nîmes.

Second, the radiometric dates obtained from all three human skeletons (between the 7th and the 9th centuries AD) echo historical sources documenting an early Muslim presence in southern Gaul (i.e., the first half of 8th century AD).

Finally, palaeogenomic analyses conducted on the human remains provide arguments in favor of a North African ancestry of the three individuals, at least considering the paternal lineages. Given all of these data, we propose that the skeletons from the Nimes burials belonged to Berbers integrated into the Umayyad army during the Arab expansion in North Africa. Our discovery not only discusses the first anthropological and genetic data concerning the Muslim occupation of the Visigothic territory of Septimania but also highlights the complexity of the relationship between the two communities during this period.

The people in the graves had not been killed in battle, and had been buried carefully.

See also here.

4 thoughts on “Early medieval Muslim graves discovery in France

    • Hi, thanks for the beautiful bird photo link!

      Often, people see medieval history of the Iberian peminsula and southern France as simply Christians vs. Muslims. Reality was a lot more complex. The Muslim caliphate could expand so quickly in the early 8th century because of conflicts between Roman Catholic and Arian Christians; because indigenous Gauls and Hispanic people hated their Visigothic rulers more than the Arab/North African newcomers. While on the Muslim side, there was the conflict between the Abbasid and Umayyad dynasties. Christian Frankish prince Charlemagne was invited to invade Spain by pro-Abbasid Muslims. As Charlemagne went back to present day France, his troops suffered their biggest defeat ever at Roncevaux at the hands of their most formidable enemies: the Basques. Mostly pagan, some Christian, allies of the Umayyad Muslims. Much later legends turned Roncevaux into a Christians vs. Muslims battle, with Charlemagne’s general Roland, about whom historically little more is known than that the Basques killed him, becoming a model of chivalry.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Viking army camp discovery in England | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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