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Durham University

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Migrations of Crusaders

A research project of the Department of Archaeology.

Background

Dr. Piers Mitchell (now at Cambridge) and Dr. Andrew Millard collaborated on strontium and oxygen isotope analysis of human and animal teeth from Crusader period sites in Israel.

In the 12th and 13th centuries hundreds of thousands of Europeans travelled to the eastern Mediterranean in military expeditions, as pilgrims, or for trade. There are unanswered questions about where the European settlers lived, the social and religious structure of the Frankish states, and discrimination and tolerance between the communities. This British Academy funded project investigated the geographical origins of 25 individuals excavated from Crusader period sites.

At Caesarea we expected to find a mixture of European immigrants, the offspring of settlers born locally, and members of local indigenous communities. However, our findings were dramatically different. It seems the cemetery in Caesarea was heavily dominated by crusaders and new European immigrants. Of the individuals tested 19 of 20 were not locally born, and only one could have had a Levantine childhood. There were no differences between high-status and low-status cemeteries. This is new information not recorded in the written texts, and forces a reconsideration of how we interpret life in the crusader port cities.

An overview of the project’s results is freely available in the British Academy Review

Published Results

Journal Article

  • Mitchell, PD & Millard, AR (2009). Migration to the medieval Middle East with the crusades. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 140(3): 518-525.
  • Mitchell, PD & Millard, AR (2007). Migration in the Crusades to the Medieval Middle East. British Academy Review 10: 24-25.

Staff

From the Department of Archaeology