The Islamic Cemetery in Tauste

por | Sep 18, 2011 | English articles, Necrópolis islámica

Carbon-14 analysis dated the uncovered remains between the 9th and 10th centuries.

The cemetery seems to be of extremely large dimensions, according to the local people that claim to have previously known about the existence of these remains in various parts of the area.

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Excavación arqueológica calle Obispo Conget

The bodies were found in the relatively shallow pits, not deep under the ground, facing the same direction, following the patterns of a typical Islamic burial site: placed in a narrow pit, on their right side facing the Mecca.

The characteristics of the necropolis discovered match those of a classical Muslim cemetery, also known as Maqbara: they were usually located on the side of the main road of the city, outside its limits but right under the city wall. The city would commonly grow and partially invade the part of the cemetery that was closest to the urban area, thus pushing it further and further away and occasionally surpassing it. In Tauste, the main road was clearly the one coming from Zaragoza, and its layout could have coincided with the current Independence Avenue, Alfonso I The Warrior up to Felipe V Square, Santa Ana Street, Fray Ángel Martínez Street and Zaragoza Street.

The location of the cemetery indicates that there might have been a wall made of rammed earth at this point that separated it from the city. It would go around the urban area with all its suburbs as an element of control and defense. This way, anyone who would come to Tauste in those times would pass by the cemetery on their right, then cross the gate in the wall made of rammed earth, get into a suburb (currently Barrio Santa Ana) and would finally enter the medina (Currently Barrio Nuevo) that was the historic city center enclosed by stone walls. The main gate to access the medina must have been on what currently is the Berroy Corner (at crossroads between the streets Zaragoza and German).

Among the possible dates considered for this cemetery (between the 8th and 12th centuries), one of the most common theories was the 11th century. The importance of the discovery of the Islamic cemetery in Tauste was huge both for the city and the El Patiaz Cultural Association. Since it used to be believed that these burials dated back to the late 19th century and were made during the cholera epidemic.

Few people could imagine the burials could actually date back to the post-Christian conquer (according to the historiography it could not have been the Muslim population) or even earlier periods.

IMG 1928
dibujotumbas2

According to the anthropologist Miriam Pina:

  • Tomb No.1 is of a male aged between 20 and 35 years.
  • Tomb No.2 is of a male between 30 and 45 years, around 1.75m high (very tall for his time), with symptoms of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis in vertebral bodies.
  • Tomb No.3 is of a female with a lower limb degeneration; the body appeared without one foot, although there were no visible injuries on the shinbone that would indicate amputation.
  • In Tomb No.4 we found a body of a child between 3 and 5 years; the remains were very deteriorated (only a skull).

Samples from tombs 1, 2 and 3 were taken and sent to the Geochronology Laboratory of the Council for Scientific Research in Madrid to be dated with the carbon-14 method. Once the tests were done, the results were put in chronological order from most recent to the oldest in the following way:

  • Tomb 1: between 890 and 1200. It can be dated by the 10th century, according to the archaeological report.
  • Tomb 3: between 860 and 990, that is, between the 9th and 10th centuries.
  • Tomb 2: between 650 and 780. The machine used to do these tests does not know that the population in this part of the Ebro Valley converted to Islam from 714 onwards. Therefore, the time range can be narrowed to714 and 780.

According to the data kindly provided by the archaeologist of the Government of Aragon, Mr Jose Ignacio Royo, these datings allow us to claim this is the oldest Islamic burial ever found in all Aragon