The mass graves were found at Sidon Castle on the eastern Mediterranean coast of south Lebanon. Records show there were two wars fought there – one in 1253 by Mamluk troops and again in 1260 by Mongols. The bodies of the Crusaders show signs of decapitation and being attacked from behind, suggesting they were fleeing the battlefield when killed.
Much of our knowledge of the lives and deaths of crusaders is derived from historical texts, and although previous research has focused on human remains from crusader period cemeteries in Europe and the Middle East, very few conflict-related mass grave sites have been identified or studied.
In a new study published in PLoS ONE, a team of international researchers detail their findings from analyses of the human skeletal remains excavated at Sidon Castle on the eastern Mediterranean coast of south Lebanon. Their results greatly improve our knowledge of warfare during the crusades, particularly during the 13th century, and shine a light on crusader demographics, specific weapon tactics and injuries and the treatment of the dead.
An international team of archaeologists has discovered a gruesome sight at Sidon Castle on the eastern Mediterranean coast, southern Lebanon.
Wounds on the remains suggest that the soldiers died from swords, maches, and arrows, and some charred bone fragments mean they were burned up after being dropped into the pit.
Other remains show marks on their necks, which may mean that these individuals were captured on the battlefield and subsequently beheadedz
Historical records written by the crusaders show that Sidon was attacked and destroyed in 1253 by the Mamluks, and again in 1260 by the Mongols, and the soldiers found in the cave’s mass grave may have perished in one of these battles.
“Within the grave pit (burial 110) a wide variety of artefacts were observed dispersed amongst the human and non-human bones, with no immediate patterning evident”, reads the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
“Metal finds included copper alloy buckles and fittings, at least two different sizes of iron nails, other iron fittings, a silver coin, a silver finger-ring and a single copper alloy arrowhead”.
“Other finds included medieval potsherds, residual Persian period potsherds, glass fragments, and a small piece of charred, twisted fiber”.
Archaeologists know what remains of the Crusaders after discovering European-style belt buckles and a crusader coin in the tombs.
DNA and isotope analysis of their teeth further confirmed that some of the men were born in Europe, while others were the children of crusader settlers who migrated to the “Holy Lands” and ended up Kissing the locals.