LONDON: A Spanish road project has uncovered one of the country’s oldest Islamic-era burial sites, including more than 300 tombs, The Times newspaper reported on Thursday.
The discovery will provide historians with a treasure trove of new information about the eighth-century Islamic presence across the Iberian Peninsula.
Road workers initially came across human remains while working on a road in Tauste, a small municipality near the city of Zaragoza in northeast Spain.
Archaeologists were then called in and teams uncovered more than 300 tombs, some dating as far back as the eighth century.
“We have discovered one of the oldest and best-preserved Muslim cemeteries in the Iberian Peninsula,” said archaeologist Rafael Laborda.
“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.”
An Arab campaign to conquer Roman-held North Africa was completed in 698. Soon after, Berber armies were launched across the Strait of Gibraltar in 711, conquering most of the Iberian Peninsula within three years.
Zaragoza was a tumultuous region of warring Christian and Muslim fiefdoms. “This cemetery is at the furthest limit of Islam, and they would have been threatened by Christian kingdoms,” Laborda said.
An initial analysis of the area showed that the Muslim population was larger than previously thought.
DNA analysis will determine the origins of the population and provide clues about the region’s conversion to Islam, archaeologists said.