Discovered relics of the First Crusade

Archaeological finds confirm the tradition of the conquest of Jerusalem by the crusaders

Crusaders at the gates of Jerusalem (French representation of 1270) © gemeinfrei
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In the name of God: During the First Crusade, Jerusalem was cruelly conquered by a Crusader army. Archaeologists have now discovered exciting relics of this siege nearly a thousand years ago. They came upon a ditch that the inhabitants of the city used to defend in defense of the city wall - a detail previously only known from historical texts. In addition, the team harbored arrowheads and precious jewelery that are probably prey to the crusaders.

The Crusades were a formative phase for the history of Europe and the Middle East. From the year 1095, hundreds of thousands of Crusaders and foot soldiers from various regions of our continent made their way to the "Holy Land" to liberate this and above all the city of Jerusalem, important for Christianity, from the hands of the Muslims.

View of the archaeological site on Zionsberg © UNC Charlotte

"Rivers of blood"

Already during the First Crusade, which began as an armed pilgrimage of laymen, there was a storm on Jerusalem. According to historical tradition, the Crusaders reached the holy city in June 1099, which at the time was under the rule of the Egyptian Fatimids. For five weeks, they allegedly besieged Jerusalem before finally conquering the city after a losing battle and causing a cruel slaughter.

"The historians speak of rivers of blood flowing through the streets of Jerusalem - and that may not be an exaggeration, " explains Shimon Gibson of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. So the Crusaders are said not only to have killed Muslim Fatimids and Jews, but also Christians remaining in the city. "The local Christians were as heretical as the Muslims and the Jews, " says the historian.

A ditch for defense

An archaeological find confirms interesting details on the course of this siege of Jerusalem almost a thousand years ago: Gibson and his colleagues have come across traces of a moat on Mount Zion, which the Fatimids defended along the s dotted city wall. This ditch prevented the attackers from setting up their siege tower on the wall and provided valuable time for the city's residents - at least that's the legend. display

However, tangible evidence for the existence of this trench was missing so far: "We can now confirm for the first time what is mentioned in important historical texts again and again, " states Gibson. As he and his team report, dating of soil layers revealed that at the site of the eleventh century, a structure about 17 meters wide and four meters deep was dug, later filled with material.

This gold beaded pearl earring was probably part of the crusader booty. W Virginia Withers

Arrowheads and jewelry pieces

But that's not all: Nearby the trench, the research team also came across a number of artifacts from that period - including arrowheads, bronze cross pendant and a unique decorated with pearls and colorful pebbles Schmuckst made of gold. "The jewelry could have been of Egyptian origin and acted as an earring or veil holder, " says Gibson. He is certain that the find is prey of the crusaders.

Interesting, however, are not only the finds themselves, but also the place of discovery. For the scientists hid the artefacts from the ruins of an earthquake-damaged building. They suspect that the structure was destroyed by the earthquake of 1033 and thus was a ruin even before the crusaders attack. "One can imagine that the Crusaders who attacked the city from the south used this ruin as cover, " Gibson speculates.

Only successful from the north

The new findings on the First Crusade are, according to the researchers, of particular value, as the battle marks a defining moment in the history of Jerusalem. "The Crusader conquest is one of several catastrophic events in the city's dramatic and violent history, " they explain in a memo.

By the way, according to tradition, the trench excavated by the Fatimids has actually had an effect. Although the attackers tried to fill the depression and overcome the barrier - in the end, they could not conquer Jerusalem from the south. Only from the north were they successful. The archaeologists hope that further excavation and analysis of the finds will soon provide more details on the conquest of the holy city in the wake of the first crusade of history.

Source: University of North Carolina Charlotte

- Daniel Albat