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Spain roadworks run into ancient Muslim burial site

A mosque seen in Spain 30 January 2015 [Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images]
A mosque seen in Spain 30 January 2015 [Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images]

Roadworks near the Spanish city of Zaragoza have uncovered an ancient Muslim burial site, the Times reported.

The burial site was noticed by workers who were widening Obispo Conget avenue in the north eastern town of Tauste.

Archaeologists have uncovered 300 tombs, some of which date back to the 8th century, and are expecting to find more.

The find, according to the Times report, is one of the oldest and best-preserved Islamic-era burial sites in the country.

Its discovery has raised hopes academics can develop a deeper understanding of Spain's history following the eight-century Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.

Preliminary findings showed that the Muslim population in the area, a harsh borderland between Christian and Muslim statelets, was larger than previously thought.

The discovery points to a prolonged and stable Muslim presence in Tauste.

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Rafael Laborda, one of the project's archaeologists, was quoted by the Times as saying: "We have discovered one of the oldest and best-preserved Muslim cemeteries in the Iberian Peninsula."

"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."

More information on the origins of the population and the speed of conversion to Islam among the local people should be revealed through detailed DNA analysis.

Paleoymas SL, the company carrying out the excavations, told local media all the remains would be removed within a month.

At least 10 per cent of the remains will be studied for academic purposes while the rest of the find will be stored in a specially built crypt, a spokesperson for the company added.

Many of the bodies are well-preserved and intact, according to news outlet Cope, but a few have been damaged by modern pipes.

The Iberian Peninsula was invaded by the Umayyad dynasty in 711 and conquered within seven years.

The conquest, which followed the acquisition of northern Africa, marked the westernmost expansion of both the Umayyad dynasty and Muslim rule into Europe.

Muslim control over the Peninsula started to decline in the 10th century and ended with the 1492 Catholic conquest of Granada.

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