In what is believed to represent the oldest Muslim burials ever found in Europe, archeologists have discovered the graves of three Muslim men that date back to the 8th century. According to Journal Plos One, the skeletons at medieval site Nîmes, in Southern France, were found facing Mecca, and a genetic analysis shows their paternal lineage was North African. DNA also indicates that the men were between the ages of 20 and 50.
According to historical documents, Muslim troops occupied the region known as Septimania from 719 until 760. Little was known about these early invaders which makes these findings so important.
The researchers say that the traditional Muslim burial of the men suggests that there was some type of Muslim community in the area at the time. In addition, the Muslim graves were amongst other graves, presumably Christian, which suggests Muslims were integrated and accepted into the local community.
“We believe these three individuals were Berbers that had been integrated into the Arab army,” says lead author of the study, Yves Gleize. “It’s a very small sample, just three graves, but it shows the early medieval Muslim presence in the south of France is a reality.”