June 16, 2009

European settlers of the Near East during the Crusades

American Journal of Physical Anthropology doi:10.1002/ajpa.21100

Migration to the Medieval Middle East with the crusades

Piers D. Mitchell, Andrew R. Millard


During the 12th and 13th centuries thousands of people moved from Europe to the Middle East to fight, undertake pilgrimage, or settle and make a new life. The aim of this research is to investigate two populations from the Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem, by determining who was born in Europe and who came from the Middle East. Oxygen and strontium stable isotope analyses were conducted on the enamel of teeth from skeletal remains excavated from Crusader contexts. Twenty individuals from the coastal city of Caesarea (10 high status and 10 low status), and two local Near Eastern Christian farmers from the village of Parvum Gerinum (Tel Jezreel) were analyzed as a control sample. Results were compared with known geographic values for oxygen and strontium isotopes. The population of the city of Caesarea appears to have been dominated by European-born individuals (probably 19/20, but at least 13/20), with few locals. This was surprising as a much higher proportion of locals were expected. Both controls from the farming village of Parvum Gerinum had spent their childhood in the area of the village, which matches our understanding of limited mobility among poor Medieval farmers. This is the first time that stable isotope analysis has been applied to the study of the migration of peoples between Medieval Europe and the Middle East at the time of the crusades. In view of these findings, we must now rethink past estimations of population social structure in Levantine coastal Medieval cities during the Crusader period.


1 comment:

dave in boca said...

Long ago during the '70s, I drove my BMW from London all the way to Beirut in preparation for a diplomatic assignment [learning Arabic] at the US Embassy in Beirut [parenthetically just before it was blown up] and the FSI Language Center moved to Tunisia]. At the Turkish/Syrian border, I was asked by two Syrian officials to give them a ride to Latakia. I did so and while taking them to the city center, remarked on how tall, blond, and blue-eyed almost all of the populace was.

The two officials, who were Syrian intelligence agents, told me that a large percentage of Latakia's inhabitants were descendants of Christian crusaders who had decided not to return to Europe. Many had even kept their status as Musahiyiin or became members o the Alawite [semi-Shi'ite] sect which currently runs Syria and is centered in the hills around Latakia.

I don't think the Syrian regime would want to allow much scholarship on the genetics of Crusader descendants because of the info above and the fragility of the Alawite Assad Family's hold on the reins of power in Syria.