Necropolis excavation 2012

por | Oct 17, 2012 | Arqueología, English articles, Necrópolis islámica

Archaeological intervention at the Muslim necropolis in Tauste

These days phase three of the excavations at the Muslim necropolis in Tauste promoted by the El Patiaz Cultural Association has been concluded.

The first trial excavations were conducted two years ago under the road on Obispo Jose Maria Conget Avenue, conjointly promoted by the above-mentioned Association and the City Council of Tauste. These excavations took place as a response to a theory about what was considered until that moment burials of the late 19th century – a consequence of the cholera epidemic.

The theory suggested that those might have been a Muslim necropolis that, in turn, would prove that there had been a settled population in that place long before the official history told us.

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General view of the site and measurements made by the archaeologist and the excavation director Francisco Javier Gutierrez

The results have surpassed all possible expectations. The extension was estimated at almost four hectares with a very high density of burials. But the most significant part of the find was the age of those burials.

According to the carbon-14 analyses conducted by the Spanish National Research Council (Madrid) of some samples, it turned out to be the oldest Islamic tomb in Aragon (the early 8th century). Considering that the cemeteries according to the Muslim customs were located just outside the towns, it could be suggested that in the Islamic period, the center of Tauste already reached that point located one kilometer away from what is now considered “the historical center”, which means, in turn, that the size of the population that inhabited it must have been significant for those days.

Last year, other trial excavations were conducted next to the previous location, this time also under the road on the same avenue. Similar remains were found as a result. This year excavations took place on a private plot, whose owners Ana Lopez and Carlos Lorente were so kind as to allow the El Patiaz Cultural Association to use it.

Twelve tombs were found. They had eight adults and four children. This number goes in line and proves the theory of the high density of this necropolis. All tombs clearly correspond to the Islamic type: the bodies are positioned on their right sides facing the Mecca. The archaeologist and excavation director, Francisco Javier Gutierrez Gonzalez, estimates the capacity of this cemetery at around 4,500 tombs. Some of which, of course, must have disappeared as a result of the recent human activity.

The most interesting fact of the last intervention was uncovering two different levels, which does not only show that the area of the necropolis was large, but that it remained there for a long period. It is not common to find funerary objects in Islamic tombs. In this case, a shard of glazed ceramic typical in the 10th and 11th centuries was found.

It is worth mentioning the visit paid by the Professor of Medieval History, Carlos Laliena Corbera, on 5 October that taking into consideration his research background was quite relevant. Back in 2003, during the conference organized by the El Patiaz Cultural Association, he revealed to the people of Tauste that it was a mistake to consider that the town had been incorporated in the Kingdom of Aragon in 1105.

He thought the correct date should have been 1121, three years after Zaragoza did so, in a completely different historical context, which provided a more intriguing view of the history of our town.  

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Professor Carlos Laliena and his students visiting the site. The councilors of town planning and culture with the chairwoman of El Patiaz are listening to the explanations of the archaeologist

Professor Carlos Laliena and his students visiting the site. The councilors of town planning and culture with the chairwoman of El Patiaz are listening to the explanations of the archaeologist

Our Cultural Association hopes to continue its studies of the site, which is so important for learning new things about the history of Tauste, by organizing fieldwork on larger private plots. Such studies would, on the one hand, help promote our town, and on the other, free the plot owners from the responsibility to conduct archaeological interventions. These works would, of course, have to be done in collaboration with the City Council, whose interest in the subject was expressly confirmed by the visits paid by Ms Esther Arrieta and Mr Javier Arencon (councilors of town planning and culture respectively) to see the site progress.

After the remains were exhumed by volunteers, under the supervision of the excavation director, there is still some work to be done, such as cleaning and forensic analysis of the remains. These will be conducted by anthropologist and journalist Miriam Pina Pardos, who already collaborated in the first phase of the excavations of the necropolis in 2010.

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The anthropologist Miriam Pina conducting the forensic study of the remains. Work done by volunteers has been essential. This task would have never been done without them.

We would like to express our gratitude not only to the volunteers but also to the companies from Tauste: Excavaciones Fernando Berna, Arenas y Gravas Aragon SL and Obras Yagüe SL. They provided us with all resources we (El Patiaz) asked them for and made it possible for us to carry out this undertaking.

 

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