400+ Ancient Muslim Graves Unearthed in Spain

400+ Ancient Muslim Graves Unearthed in Spain

Roadworkers in northeastern Spain unexpectedly came across an Islamic burial ground in use from the 8th-11th century. Archaeologists have unearthed more than 400 ancient Muslim graves at the site. The lucky find is challenging previous beliefs about Muslim settlements in the area and has revealed one of the oldest and best-preserved Islamic-era graveyards in the country.

Unearthing the Ancient Muslim Graves

The first of the ancient Muslim graves surprised workers while they were widening a road in the town of Tauste, near the city of Zaragoza. The extensive necropolis, which stretches over five-acres, demonstrates that the Muslim population in the area was larger than previously believed. Before recent excavations began, traditional and written sources thought the Muslim presence was essentially “incidental and even non-existent ” in this town.

Workers discovered the ancient Muslim graves while widening a road in Tauste, a small town near Zaragoza in northeast Spain. ( El Patiaz Asociacion Cultural )

Miriam Pina Pardos, the director of the Anthropological Observatory of the Islamic Necropolis of Tauste with the El Patiaz cultural association, told CNN that the cultural association saw the clues that the town once held a large Islamic population , even before the skeletons were recently found. They knew it just by looking at the architecture and from examining previous finds of other ancient Muslim graves in the town. As archaeologist Eva Gimenez, who has been working at the site, told CNN:

"We can see that the Muslim culture and Islamic presence in this area is more important than we thought. 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.”

Other ancient Muslim graves had been discovered in Tauste before the 400 burials. ( El Patiaz Asociacion Cultural )

Living in Troubled Lands

Rafael Laborda, another of the archaeologists excavating the ancient Islamic necropolis, further explained to the Times “We have discovered one of the oldest and best-preserved Muslim cemeteries in the Iberian Peninsula. Even though this was a volatile frontier area our work indicates that this necropolis belonged to a stable Muslim community that lasted for more than four centuries.”

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In 711 AD, the Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula, which they called Al-Andalus. It only took them seven years to conquer the region. By the 10th century, the Muslim control of the peninsula was declining and in 1492 the Christians had reconquered the area. But there was a lot of political and social change that happened in the centuries that the Iberian Peninsula was known as Al-Andalus.

It went from a province of the Umayyad Caliphate to an independent emirate, and then broke up into smaller independent principalities known as taifas. Although the period of Muslim rule is often described as La Convivencia (‘The Coexistence’), a time when supposedly Muslims, Christians, and Jewish people all co-existed “peacefully” – the reality was more complex than the name suggests.

As Laborda said, “This cemetery is at the furthest limit of Islam, and they would have been threatened by Christian kingdoms,” a reference to the fact that the people who lived in the area were in a “tumultuous region of warring Christian and Muslim fiefdoms,” according to ArabNews.

A Treasure Trove of Information to Explore

Paleoymás SL, the archaeology firm in charge of the site’s excavations, stated that all of the human remains will be removed from the site within a month. Most of the remains are well-preserved, except for a few of the burials which were damaged by modern pipes. Pina Pardos said that all of the skeletons were buried following Islamic customs, “positioned to the right and facing southeast toward Mecca.”

All of the skeletons were buried following Islamic customs, “positioned to the right and facing southeast toward Mecca.” (El Patiaz Asociacion Cultural )

Middle East Monitor reports that 10% of the remains will be analyzed by researchers, including scientists who will analyze the DNA, with hopes of pinpointing the origins of the population and perhaps even “the speed of conversion to Islam among the local people.” The rest of the human remains are going to be stored in a crypt which is being specially built to hold them.

The discovery of the ancient Muslim graves in Tauste has provided researchers with a wealth of archaeological and ancient genetic information to sift through. Continued analysis of the DNA and archaeological material will help researchers to better understand the impact of the ancient Islamic presence on the Iberian Peninsula’s history .

The discovery of the well-preserved ancient Muslim graves in Tauste has provided researchers with a wealth of archaeological and ancient genetic information. (El Patiaz Asociacion Cultural )


400 Muslim Graves in Old Spain’s Andalusia Unearthed

Archaeologists are still studying the graves and examining the 20.000-meter archaeological site.

“The graves were discovered in an 8th-century burial ground in the town of Tauste, near Zaragoza in Aragon,” Eva Gimenez, an archaeologist currently excavating the site, described to CNN.

Many records asserted that Muslims didn’t invade Zaragoza. Other records reclaimed that the Muslim invasion of Zaragoza was so limited according to the Ancient-Origins website.

“In the same context, Muslim occupation of Tauste had been considered “incidental and even non-existent” by traditional and written sources, researchers from the University of the Basque Country have said — but the region’s cultural association had long suspected the area had been home to a large Islamic settlement because of architectural clues and human remains found in the town,” Miriam Pina Pardos, director of the Anthropological Observatory of the Islamic Necropolis of Tauste explained to CNN.

The architectural nature of the graves was the main characteristic of their Muslim identity, in addition to the way the burial process was done.

Last year, the Spanish archaeologists revealed a huge discovery of unearthing a huge Muslim cemetery in the same town, and a number of bodies were studied and examined scientifically.


400+ Ancient Muslim Graves Unearthed in Spain - History

More than 400 graves have been unearthed in Tauste municipality, near Zaragoza city. The number of unearthed graves was 40 in 2012-13, archaeologists said.

They added that the numbers could go as high as 4,500 if the excavations were to continue.

Javier Nunez Arce is the head of El Patiaz Cultural Association, whose purpose is to discover, preserve and spread the heritage, culture and idiosyncrasies of the &lsquoVilla de Tauste&rsquo. He told Anadolu Agency that they knew there used to be a cemetery in the town but did not know its origins.

The excavations in Tauste began in 2010, when the first remains were discovered during construction of a new home for a local. Nunez Arce said they realized the graves were Muslim graves because the skeletons were facing Mecca, in line with Muslim traditions.

After archeologists examined it in detail, they discovered that the bell tower of the Catholic church (Santa Maria tower) was also a conversion job from a minaret.

&ldquoWhen the wall enclosing the church around the base of it was built, the tower already existed,&rdquo says the El Patiaz website, positing that the bell tower, previously believed to be from the late 13th century, used to be a minaret from the ninth century AD, predating the rest of the church.

&ldquoTherefore, it is clear that a Muslim community with a mosque used to live in this town,&rdquo Nunez Arce added.

Written in Islamic calligraphy, the minaret appears to have the phrase "There is no deity but God", one of the tenets of Islam.

With the discovery of the largest Islamic cemetery dating back to the &lsquoUmayyad&rsquo era in the eighth century AD, local authorities have sped up their excavation efforts.

According to the authorities, examining the remains found in the cemetery leads to an important and rare discovery that reveals a Muslim community lived in Tauste from the eighth to the twelfth century AD.

AA reports that the local government in Aragon has decided to remove all graves on the main street, as they plan to build an underground infrastructure there.

Nunez Arce also said that while the tower and the church made them think there was a small population in Tauste, the recent discoveries have made them realize that &ldquothe population is more than they initially thought &ndash that there was a large population and that the tower also had an Islamic origin.&rdquo

Nunez Arce also said they already knew that bones and skulls appeared sometimes after heavy rain and storms in the region, but they did not know their origins before the excavation.

Archaeologists are still studying the graves and examining the 20,000-metre archaeological site.

According to Eva Jimenez, director of the excavation team, the remains found in the Muslim graves will be taken for genetic and DNA testing before being transferred to the museum. Jimenez added that there is another project being explored, which is to bury the remains in Tauste municipality, as they are citizens and part of its heritage and culture.


  • Experts discovered the 4,500 bodies in Tauste district near Zaragoza in Spain
  • Andalusian Islamic era spanned from 711-1492 so the tombs are 1,000 years old
  • Remains will be cataloged, stored for research and studied over coming years

By Amelia Wynne For Mailonline

Published: 18:47 GMT, 29 November 2020 | Updated: 18:47 GMT, 29 November 2020

Archaeologists in Spain have found 400 Muslim graves in an ancient Islamic necropolis.

Experts discovered the 4,500 bodies in Tauste district earlier this month which is located near Zaragoza in the north west of the country.

The Andalusian Islamic era spanned from 711-1492, meaning the tombs are more than 1,000 years old.

Archaeologists in Spain have fond 400 Muslim graves in an ancient Islamic necropolis

Experts discovered the 4,500 bodies in Tauste district earlier this month which is located near Zaragoza in the north west of the country

The Andalusian Islamic era spanned from 711-1492, meaning the tombs are more than 1,000 years old

By 711, Arab forces had invaded and begun to conquer the Iberian peninsula – which includes Spain and Portugal.

They remained for the next seven centuries until 1492, when the area was totally reconquered by the Christian kingdoms.

Miriam Pina Pardos, director of the Anthropological Observatory of the Islamic Necropolis of Tauste told CNN: ‘It’s rare to do an excavation and to find 400 tombs. It’s amazing.

The remains (pictured) will be cataloged, stored for research and studied over the coming years

A first dig of the site in 2010 revealed a five-acre necropolis, spread over at least two levels

The architectural nature of the graves was the main characteristic of their Muslim identity, in addition to the way the burial process was done

‘We can see that the Muslim culture and Islamic presence in this area is more important than we thought.

‘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.’

Some 44 skeletons were then uncovered during smaller excavations in the years following the initial dig

A view of Tauste district in Zaragoza, Spain, where the bodies were discovered during the dig

More than 400 ancient Muslim graves have been unearthed so far in works conducted by experts

More than 400 bodies have been found after local authorities ordered an extensive excavation of the area

Miriam Pina Pardos, director of the Anthropological Observatory of the Islamic Necropolis of Tauste told CNN : ‘It’s rare to do an excavation and to find 400 tombs. It’s amazing’

‘We can see that the Muslim culture and Islamic presence in this area is more important than we thought’, she added

The remains will be cataloged, stored for research and studied over the coming years.

A first dig of the site in 2010 revealed a five-acre necropolis, spread over at least two levels.

Some 44 skeletons were then uncovered during smaller excavations in the years following the initial dig.

And then this year, more than 400 bodies have been found after local authorities ordered an extensive excavation of the area.

The architectural nature of the graves was the main characteristic of their Muslim identity, in addition to the way the burial process was done.


86 Skeletons Unearthed from Hidden Medieval Graveyard in Wales

Scores of skeletons and artifacts — some dating back 1,600 years — were found in a long-hidden cemetery on the grounds of a college campus in Wales.

During 2016, construction of a new road to connect a local highway with Coleg Menai’s Pencraig Campus in Anglesey, Wales, revealed the remains of 54 people dating to the early medieval period, from the 4th century to the 8th century, according to Wales Online. Then, in 2017, an additional 32 individuals were uncovered nearby, prior to the construction of the college's new engineering center bones and objects from this location dated from around A.D. 400 to A.D. 700, said Irene Garcia-Rovira, Project Manager at Archaeology Wales.

Experts with Archaeology Wales, a private archaeology company, discovered dozens of so-called cist graves — coffin-like boxes made of stone — during the 2017 excavation. Surprisingly, the people who were buried in the graves were not local. Rather, they came from across Europe, with chemical analysis of the skeletons tracing some individuals to western Britain, Scandinavia and Spain, Wales Online reported. [The 25 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth]

Garcia-Rovira described the findings on July 26 at the town hall in Llangefni, Wales, the North Wales Chronicle reported.

Archaeology Wales researchers excavated about half of the existing site in 2017. Their investigation will be integrated with prior findings from Brython Archaeology — another private company — in a forthcoming scientific study, according to the Chronicle.

Alkaline in the cemetery's soil helped to preserve the remains, Garcia-Rovira told Live Science. Some of the individuals appeared to have died when they were in their mid-40s. That may seem young by today's standards, but reaching that age was impressive for the time, according to Wales Online.

Scientists also identified a Roman coin at the site dating to the second century and a decorative brooch in an early medieval style. One side of the coin was stamped with the face of Antoninus Pius, who reigned as emperor of Rome from A.D. 138 to 161, while the other side was heavily abraded, Wales Online reported. The brooch may have been deliberately placed in a grave or left behind by a mourner "It could either be residual or some sort of heirloom," Garcia-Rovira said.

Editor's note: The story was updated on Aug. 7 to correct the age of the cemetery, Dr. Garcia-Rovira's title and affiliation and to clarify details about the findings.


Spain: Archeologists discover ancient Islamic necropolis

An ancient Islamic necropolis has been discovered in northeastern Spain by archaeologists.

Some 400 graves have been unearthed in town Tauste, near Zaragoza city, up from 40 in 2012-13, archeologists said.

The figure could climb to 4,500 should the excavations continue, they added.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Javier Nunez Arce, head of Elpatiaz Cultural Association, said they knew there used to be a cemetery in the town but did not know its origins.

Noting that excavations started in 2010, he said it immediately became clear that the graves belonged to Muslims as the skeletons were facing toward Mecca, in line with Muslim traditions.

Arce also said they found out that the bell tower of the Catholic church in town was converted from a minaret.

&ldquoTherefore, it is clear that a Muslim community with a mosque used to live in this town,&rdquo he added.


Hundreds of graves reveal Spanish town’s secret Muslim history

SHAFAQNA- An archaeological site in northeast Spain holds one of the oldest-known Muslim cemeteries in the country, with the discovery of 433 graves, some dating back to the first 100 years of the Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.

The finds confirm that the region, along the frontier between the warring Islamic and Christian worlds in the turbulent early Middle Ages, was once dominated by Muslim rulers, who were later replaced by Christian rulers and their history forgotten.

The archaeologists unearthed the ancient graves from a maqbara or Muslim necropolis, dating from between the eighth and the 12th centuries, this summer in the town of Tauste, in the Ebro Valley about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northwest of Zaragoza.

The remains show that the dead were buried according to Muslim funeral rituals and suggest the town was largely Islamic for hundreds of years, despite there being no mention of this phase in local histories.

“The number of people buried in the necropolis and the time it was occupied indicates that Tauste was an important town in the Ebro Valley in Islamic times,” lead archaeologist Eva Giménez of the heritage company Paleoymás told Live Science.

Giménez and the company Paleoymás were contracted for the latest excavations by El Patiaz Cultural Association, which was founded by local people in 1999 to investigate the history of the town.

Their initial excavations in 2010 suggested that a 5-acre (2 hectares) Islamic necropolis at Tauste might hold the remains of up to 4,500 people. But the association’s limited funds meant only 46 graves could be unearthed in the first four years of work.

Giménez said the latest discoveries hint that even more Muslim graves could still be found. “We now have information that indicates that the size of the necropolis is greater than what was known,” she said.


400+ Ancient Muslim Graves Unearthed in Spain - History

An astonishing archaeological discovery in Spain, has led to the discovery of more than 400 tombs and over 4,500 bodies in an eighth century Muslim necropolis.

The large burial ground with elaborate tombs and monuments, is one of the oldest and best preserved in Spain. Archaeologists who made the discovery say they were able to infer that the people resting at the site were Muslim because they buried were facing Mecca.

Workmen stumbled across the remains when they were widening a road in Tauste, a small town in the province of Zaragoza. Excavations then started in 2010.

The discovery of the site in the northeast of Spain points towards an established Muslim community living in the area at the time. /AFP

Eva Jiménez the archaeological dig coordinator says the team has "located some 420 burials, of which we have excavated 375, 376," which includes the discovery of "some of the largest burials of this era at these latitudes."

Jiménez also says the resting site is symbolic because it represents "a moment of convergence, of change."

"The people we have buried here are people who have converted to Islam, but who have a trado-Roman culture, so we have a moment of cultural transition there," continues Jiménez.

It is hoped the find will shed more light on the Muslim conquest of the Iberian peninsula in the early 700s.

Once the remains have undergone human analysis, they will be transferred to a museum.


Ancient Islamic Necropolis with Thousands of Bodies Unearthed in Spain

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 8 th and 11 th 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.

There is evidence that a mosque once stood in the town.

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.”

Over 400 tombs with more than 4,500 bodies have been recovered so far.

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.”


Archaeologists in Spain find 400 tombs in ancient Islamic necropolis

An ancient Islamic necropolis containing over 4,500 bodies has been uncovered in northeastern Spain, with archaeologists excavating more than 400 tombs in the five-acre site.

The tombs were discovered in an 8th-century burial ground in the town of Tauste, near Zaragoza in Aragon, Eva Gimenez, an archaeologist currently excavating the area with the Paleoymás archaeology firm, told CNN.

By 711, Arab forces had invaded and begun to conquer the Iberian peninsula. They remained for the next seven centuries until 1492, when the area was totally reconquered by the Christian kingdoms.

Muslim occupation of Tauste had been considered "incidental and even non-existent" by traditional and written sources, researchers from the University of the Basque Country have said -- but the region's cultural association had long suspected the area had been home to a large Islamic settlement because of architectural clues and human remains found in the town, Miriam Pina Pardos, director of the Anthropological Observatory of the Islamic Necropolis of Tauste with the El Patiaz cultural association, told CNN.

From 711 to 1492, the boundaries between the Christian north and the Islamic south shifted constantly with the changing sovereign authority, according to researchers from the University of the Basque Country.

A first dig of the site in 2010 revealed a five-acre necropolis, spread over at least two levels, Pina Pardos said.

DNA studies and carbon dating place remains in the necropolis between the 8th and 11th centuries, according to El Patiaz.

Some 44 skeletons were uncovered during smaller excavations in the years following the initial dig, Pina Pardos said, and this year, more than 400 bodies have been found after local authorities ordered an extensive excavation of the area.

"It's rare to do an excavation and to find 400 tombs. It's amazing," she said.

All of the skeletons had been buried according to Islamic customs, positioned to the right and facing southeast toward Mecca, Pina Pardos added.

Experts believe the discovery will challenge previous assumptions about Muslim settlements in the area.

"We can see that the Muslim culture and Islamic presence in this area is more important than we thought," Gimenez said.

"We can see there was a big Muslim population here in Tauste from the beginning of the presence of Muslims in Spain," she added. "It is very important -- the 400 Muslim tombs shows the people lived here for centuries," she said.

The remains will be cataloged, stored for research and studied, Pina Pardos said.