Mass Grave of 13th Century Warriors Uncovered by Archaeologists in Lebanon

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In an excavation near the St Louis’ castle in Sidon, Lebanon, an international team of archaeologists has found a mass grave of slaughtered warriors. Using carbon dating, the archaeologists came to know that the body remains — mostly skeletal structures — belong to 25 warriors who died during the 13th century.

In a study published on August 25 in PLOS One, the researchers detailed their findings. “All the bodies were of teenage or adult males, indicating that they were combatants who fought in the battle when Sidon was attacked,” says Richard Mikulski, one of the authors of the study in a statement.

By performing DNA and isotope analysis on their teeth, the researchers confirmed that some of the combatants were born in Europe while others were born out of intermarriages of crusaders and locals.

According to historical records, the cause of their death was probably one of the two major wars in the region during that time period — the attack on Sidon by Mamluks in 1253 and the Mongol attack on Sidon in 1260. Researchers say that it is highly likely that these soldiers died in one of these attacks.

The injuries on the skeletal remains tell us about the nature of the attack the soldiers had to suffer. The skeletons contain sword injuries on the back indicating an attack from the back when probably the soldiers were fleeing. Some other bodies have sword injuries on the back of their neck indicating their execution after probably being captured by the enemy. Impacts of brutal force on some other bodies indicate that the attackers were riding on their horses when they were chasing them.

According to the researchers, the position of the body parts, when the mass grave was found, suggested that when the soldiers died they were left to decompose for some time before being buried. Evidence of charring on some bones indicates that some of the bodies were burnt by the attackers.

According to Piers Mitchell from the University of Cambridge, records show that during the time, King Louis IX of France was part of the Crusades. When he returned from the battle, he went to the city and helped in the burial of the soldiers in mass graves. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if King Louis himself had helped to bury these bodies?” said Mitchell in a statement.

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