The Daily Star
The first genetic study of the Crusaders, carried out on remains found in Sidon, has confirmed that the warriors traveled from western Europe to modern-day Lebanon, had mixed families with local people, and died together in battle. The results, published Thursday in the American Journal of Human Genetics, also confirmed that the presence of the Crusaders was short-lived, as no significant traces of European DNA are found in modern-day Lebanese.
A statement from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, a British nonprofit genomics and genetics research organization, said that the finding was made from a Sidon burial pit of 25 skeletons dating back to the 13th century. All of the skeletons were male and showed signs of having been killed violently in battle.
The institute produced whole-genome sequences of the ancient skeletons’ DNA and was able to confirm they are from the Crusaders. Two were of European origins from Spain and Sardinia, four were from the near east and had been “recruited to fight,” and two had mixed genetic profiles, suggesting they were born of mixed relationships between Crusaders and locals.
“Genomics gives an unprecedented view of the past and shows the Crusaders originated from western Europe and recruited local people of the near east to join them in battle,” the institute’s Chris Tyler-Smith said. “The Crusaders and Near-Easterners lived, fought and died side by side.”
Researchers were also able to determine that the DNA of people living in Lebanon 2,000 years ago, during the Roman period, is genetically similar to modern-day Lebanese. This suggests that the Crusades, which took place between the late 1000s and 1300, had no lasting impact.
“After the fighting had finished, the mixed generation married into the local population and the genetic traces of the Crusaders were quickly lost,” Marc Haber, also of the institute, was quoted as saying.