Society for the
Study of the Crusades 
and the Latin East 

The Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East promotes archaeological research, aims at increasing the awareness of ongoing archaeological research of the Crusader period and encourages the collaboration of members and institutions in surveys and excavations. Interested parties will find on this page a number of entries about the various projects in which members of the Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East are participating or principal investigators.

  • 18 Nov 2020 3:48 PM | Kyle Lincoln (Administrator)

    The “Landscapes of (Re)Conquest” project is a program of research investigating the character of medieval frontiers in the western Mediterranean. Societies here were characterised by multiple and shifting frontiers during the Middle Ages, a formative period for modern Europe. These frontiers were created by periods of conflict between opposing societies defined, above all, by religious differences, with populations composed of fluctuating resident and migrant communities. Their material legacy is exemplified by spectacular monuments – the fortified centres of authority built to secure and control these frontiers. 

    However, they remain disconnected from their associated territories, both in the academic and public domains. As frontiers, these territories encompassed multicultural communities and articulated tensions between the conquering authorities and conquered populations. This project will address this disconnection between sites and landscapes. In Iberia, these dramatic castles are emblematic of the military conquests – many framed as crusades or connected with crusading ideology – which have been merged into one lengthy, unrelenting Reconquista; a term popularised in late-19th century historiography with the aim of promoting a nationalist agenda of unification. Following this narrative, the process of unification was the direct result of a “reconquest” of Christian Visigothic territories that had been lost to Arab and Berber Islamic forces. This was completed in Portugal in 1249 with the capture of Faro, and in Spain in 1492 with the annexation of Granada. Since 1978, many Iberian scholars have rejected the term “Reconquista” in favour of regional “conquests”, but it still has international currency and remains in use within conservative sectors of Spanish society. Its main effect is to present an essentialist dichotomy between Christianity and Islam as driving the emergence of modern Iberian societies. In order to critically engage with public and scholarly perceptions of this problematic term, the use of “(Re)conquest” in LoR is deliberate.

    The project, funded by the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) from 2019-2022, is a collaboration between the University of Reading (PI Aleks Pluskowski), University of Granada (International Co-I Guillermo García-Contreras Ruiz) and University of York (Co-I Michelle Alexander). It entails a comparative investigation of three different frontier regions in Spain and Pyrenean France, representing the borderlands of a range of opposing Islamic-Christian and Christian-Christian polities.  The key questions we will ask are how did conquering authorities deal with the creation of multicultural societies in these frontiers, how did they relate to central authorities and how did conquered communities respond to the imposition of new political and social norms? Drawing on a range of archaeological, environmental and historical data, we will investigate changes in settlements, religious, commercial and political centres alongside environmental changes, assessing whether territorial reorganisation resulted in intensified resource exploitation, or to what extent earlier trends continued and can be linked to established practices and worldviews. We will then consider how much freedom there was to move across these frontiers, traditionally linked to the widespread practice of transhumance. Finally, we will bring all this information together to map long-term cultural resilience in SW European societies – the ability of conquered communities to adapt to the imposition of new regimes. Environmental exploitation is an increasingly used index of this resilience. We will then develop visual and digital resources to enable visitors to engage with the cultural landscapes associated with the iconic monuments of frontier authorities.

    You can find more info on the project here:

  • 9 Nov 2020 3:24 PM | Kyle Lincoln (Administrator)

    The Wine of the Bolognese Templars: a case study

    By Giampiero Bagni

                If you travel extensively in Italy, it is impossible to avoid Bologna. Due to its geographical position, (Fig. 1) the city is, and always has been, a major crossroads, connecting key ports, cities, and travel routes. The University of Bologna is situated right in the middle of this junction and is the oldest scholarly institutions in the western world – it was founded in 1088.


    Because of the city’s significant international exchange and intellectual prowess, its Templar Commandery, likely established around 1150, was extremely influential. Its substantial local wine production helped fund the Templar brothers in the Holy Land. However, this Commandery has received very little scholarly attention – until now.

                This is part of a first specific study regarding the production of wine within the economy of the Bologna Templar Commandery. The work draws on information from archival sources, archaeological and palynological samples and so on. Because this location is understudied, it was necessary to reconstruct every aspect of the Commandery, as far back as its establishment. I set up a steering committee of scholars and local experts on military orders to develop a multidisciplinary approach to this subject. The members include archaeologists, archivists, anthropologists, art historians, biologists, palynologists and other experts.

                Until very recently, it was difficult to pinpoint evidence for the exact date of the establishment of the Bologna Templar commandery. Only recently combining the archeological results and wide archival research it was possible to affirm that the entire life of the Templar Commandery in Bologna can now be dated to between 1150 and 1313, when the Commandery passed to the Hospitallers. The house was situated along the Roman Via Emilia (Fig. 2), 400 meters eastward and outside of Bologna’s Eleventh-century walls.


    The possible foundation around 1150 is also supported by the results of the 2015-16 archaeological excavation of the Commandery, including the stratigraphical (Fig.3) dating of retrieved building materials and palynological assays of plant residues conducted at the beginning of 2016.


         My extensive research in local Italian archives, particularly in the Archbishopric archive of Ravenna, turned up coeval documents related to the local trial and the properties of the Bolognese Templars. These documents include the Inventory of Templar properties (Fig.4) prepared by the Inquisition in March 1309 and then used later the same year by Archbishop Rinaldo of Ravenna, who organized the Templar local trials.

     Fig. 4

    This detailed inventory lists all the urban (Fig. 2), mainly houses, and suburban (Fig.5) properties held by the Templars, indicating their borders, neighbors and the type of property: house, crop field, vineyard and so on. The acreage of these estates was measured in tornature, a unit equivalent to 2,080 square meters. Most of the Templar holdings in the city and environs were used to grow cereal crops. The rest included vineyards, vegetables and pasture land. Since the front and back of the first sheet of the Ravenna inventory are defaced, and the units of land are not recorded for all holdings, the total size of the Bologna commandery’s estates is approximate, yet substantial, at over 83 hectares.

                 According to these records, the Templar vineyards were located in the eastern plain near the present-day town of Marano di Castenaso (Fig.5), where there is still a marker vineyard of the Albana variety.


                Beyond their landholdings, the 1309 Inventory of Templar Properties lists the goods stored in the warehouse of the Commandery’s still extant Knights’ Hall (Fig.6), where we conducted the excavation.


    The inventory claims the Templars had 25,000 liters of wine in large casks stored there. The wine was likely bottled from harvests within at least five of the preceding years. The 3D reconstruction of the medieval Commandery developed from this research, in particular of the wine storage area, elaborates on this fact  (Fig.7).


                Although the Templar Order possessed vineyards across Western Christendom, the research that is perhaps most comparable to the situation in Bologna is Dominic Selwood’s study of the Sant ’Eulalia commandery in southern France. For example, Selwood notes that Sant ’Eulalia’s stores held some 20,000 liters of wine from probably 15 hectares of land. This figure is only 4,000 liters less than the quantity listed for the Bologna commandery. It appears to underscore that, as in Bologna, the wine was most likely sold locally and the revenues (Responsiones) were allocated to support the Order’s efforts in the Holy Land. Given wine’s bulk weight and its impaired shelf life during overseas transit, it seems most plausible to assume that it was sold in local markets and the profits were sent to the Eastern Brothers. There was some wine transported between Commanderies in Europe, such as from La Rochelle, France to England, but that was mainly for Templar use. My recent research on the Order’s vineyards in Bologna expanded the economic analysis by seeking, firstly, the financial value of the wine produced by the Bolognese Templars and, secondly, identifying the wine grape cultivar via laboratory assays.

         Bologna had been a wine grape district in the Roman Empire and it resumed production in the early medieval period, following the collapse of the Empire of the West after 476. By the turn of the Eleventh Century, most of the vineyards lay within the city’s three-mile urban-suburban boundary belt. Winegrape cultivation spread further during the Thirteenth Century, driven presumably by population increases, which included students attending the University. The spread of vineyard acreage to the eastern reaches of the city is noteworthy, as it was within these suburbs that the Bologna Templar commandery would establish holdings. With a population estimated at 50,000 inhabitants by the beginning of the Thirteenth Century, the city’s wine cultivation grew in step with demand and new vineyards were planted in the lowland areas. There were two kinds of plantings: full-field vineyards and individual rows of vines serving as boundary markers in fields of grain and other crops. The grape cultivars grown in local vineyards were recorded by medieval jurist Pier de ’Crescenzi in his writings on agriculture. He notes that there were some forty cultivars of both white and red grapes. The whites included Sclava, Albana, Garganica, and Malixia, and the reds Grilla, Gramesta and Lambrusca - some of these varietals are still grown today.

         By tradition and codification in municipal statutes, the grapes were pressed to must (the freshly pressed juice including skins and stems) on site and then delivered in tuns of 785 liters each, called castellata, to the owner’s winery. Any surplus wine was delivered for sale to the wine market, a central square near what is now the enormous Church of St. Petronius. Transport, unloading and measuring of the wine were done by Brentatori, authorized intra-mural liverymen and wine sellers. Their name was derived from the 39-liter containers in which they transported wine.

                Beyond the wine trade, it is crucial to note that an imperial charter of 1191 granted Bologna the right to coin money. The city’s currency consisted of the silver soldo of bolognini, equal to 1,41 grams of silver. One Bolognese Lira - similar to the generally used Imperial Lira - had an exchange rate of 20 soldi of bolognini, the equivalent of 28.2 grams of silver. This initial appraisal relies on the economic models Paolo Malanima applies in his Economia Italiana in 2002, combined with a set of archival documents. Malanima’s analyses employ a series of databases and the value of the Florentine florin for comparing the price of goods such as grain, wine, olive oil, meat and textiles in the economies of medieval North Italian cities.

                Local historian Antonio Ivan Pini in 1998 estimates that by the mid-Thirteenth Century the average value of a full-field vineyard in Bologna was 30 lire per 2,000 square metres (approx. $145) and the value of marker vines was 10 lire (approx. $48). So, the approximate currency equivalents are: 1 lira Bolognese corresponds to 20 soldi of Bolognini, 1 Gold Florentine florin corresponds to 24 Bolognese soldi.  These numbers also adhere to the model proposed by Peter Spufford in his Handbook of Medieval Exchange, published by the Royal Historical Society in 1986.

                Here the local archives are invaluable yet again: the Bologna Commune set the price of wine in 1256 at approximately 1 soldo per 79 litres. That wine production was becoming extensive during the mid-late Thirteenth Century is shown by a tariff the Commune levied on imported wine in 1288. On the other hand, the duty it levied on exporting wine was minimal. The city’s average wine consumption in the Middle Ages was 200 liters per capita per year, as compared to 100 liters per capita in 1970. The Inquisition’s inventory indicates that the Templars possessed at least 4 hectares of full-field vineyards, 6% of its assets, mostly in the lowland districts southeast of the city. The value of this land would have been approximately 600 Bolognese lire (12,000 soldi).

                My inventory analysis found that there were also about 13.6 hectares of marker vineyards in roughly the same area, valued at roughly 700 Bolognese lire. Given the lacuna of the inventory because of the defaced sheets, and the fact that several plots contiguous to those mentioned do not list crops, it is estimated that the total wine grape acreage may have been 20 hectares. This would mean that wine grape acreage accounted for approximately 25% of Templar property assets (83 hectares in all), well in excess of the Bolognese wine holdings of the other ecclesiastical orders. In other words, the overall value of Templar vineyards would have come to some 1,500 Bolognese lire, some 30,000 soldi, making it clear that the Bolognese Templars produced a considerable amount of wine. To better comprehend these figures, it helps to understand some basic costs at the time. In 1309 Archbishop Rinaldo stated that each of the Templar brothers remanded for trial in his jurisdiction was to receive a yearly allotment of around 500 liters of grain and good wine, 4 liras of Bolognini for clothes and shoes, and 5 soldi of bolognini per day for all the other necessities. For similar properties of the nearby St. Proculus convent, Pini estimates that the average winegrape yield per hectare was 200 litres or about 4,000 litres for all of its vineyards per year. The Templar Knights’ Hall held 25,000 liters, six-fold more than the average yearly production.

         Further investigation of the Ravenna Archbishopric archive has uncovered a receipt that Archbishop Rinaldo (Fig. 8) issued on 13 of October 1309 for more than 25,000 litres of wine from the Bologna commandery’s stores. Its value was calculated by the Brentatori at some 3 soldi per corba (79 litres), or three-fold the usual price set by the Commune.

    Fig. 8

    That could indicate that the wine was from a cultivar of superior quality - our laboratory analysis will attempt to verify whether or not this is true. If it is true, the value of these stores would have been on the order of 950 soldi of bolognini. No matter what, it is clear that the Bologna Commandery prospered from producing and trading wine, especially when compared to other local monasteries or the St. Eulalia Templar Commandery.

         What we do not yet know is the exact kind of wine the Templars cultivated. The other target of this research is to identify the wine grape cultivar via laboratory assays of the pollen obtained in the cores taken during the archaeological work. The cored pollen samples of grapevines found in the site surveys are stratigraphically coeval with the Bologna commandery, from the mid-Thirteenth Century. From the stratigraphy and the related cores (Fig.9), we extracted many samples containing grape pollen together with others.


    These samples made it possible to isolate pollen grains of vines in relatively good condition (Fig. 10). These samples are currently being tested to determine the varieties cultivated.


    This testing could enable the reconstruction of a vineyard similar in all respects to that grown by the Bologna Templars. If successful, it would be the first time a laboratory-based effort of this kind has been attempted. The next step has been to obtain the DNA from a single pollen grain extracted, thanks to collaboration with Prof. Luca Dondini of the laboratory of the Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Agro-Alimentari at the University of Bologna, who amplified massively the material using an adapted specific amplification kit. The amount of DNA extracted from the pollen sample was so sufficient to match the DNA using the Italian Vitis Database, even if the DNA pollen was originally so ancient and degradated. That Database has the grapevine data sequenced by 2007, which enabled us to match sequences with more than an 80% accuracy rate. A new technique called Next Generation Sequencing costs less than previous techniques and has a very high efficiency rate. The result of the comparation between the pollen obtained in the archaeological excavation and the DNA of the different cultivars give the results that the Templar Wine was Albana. A grapevine callus developed by the University of Trento (Fig.11) is a great example of what can be achieved.


     We hope that this technique will lead us to obtain a similar callus, produced using the DNA of the “Templar pollen”. From that finding, a plant could be developed (Fig.12)


     This laboratory-grown plant could then be grafted onto a historical cultivar of Albana still growing in a Marano vineyard, an area surrounding Bologna, that was once a property of the Templars as mentioned in the Inventory (Fig.13).


    The goal is to obtain harvest grapes that are as similar as possible to those that produced the wine contained in the barrels listed in the 1309 inventory of the Templar commandery. If this can be achieved, the resulting wine would be derived from verifiable archival, archaeological and scientific sources on historical Templar wine.


  • 16 Oct 2018 1:13 PM | Kyle Lincoln (Administrator)


    Piers Mitchell, a paleopathologist teaching in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge and studying ancient diseases has in recent years carried out research on crusader period human skeletal remains from the city of Caesarea, the village of Parvum Gerinum, and the castle of Vadum Iacob. He is part of the team currently studying crusader period mass graves outside the city walls of Sidon. The lab work for this project is being undertaken by Richard Mikulski at the University of Bournemouth, UK.

    Mitchell is also carrying out an investigation of intestinal parasites from the analysis of crusader period latrines and cesspools. These include latrines from the coastal city of Acre, Sarandra Kolones castle in Cyprus, and a new project investigating the latrines at the Teutonic Order castle at Montfort. Samples from the latrines and drains across the castle will be analysed using digital light microscopy to detect the eggs of intestinal parasitic worms, and ELISA to detect the single celled protozoa that can cause dysentery."

  • 16 Oct 2018 1:10 PM | Kyle Lincoln (Administrator)


    Castellum Regis is a twelfth century Frankish castle, is located in the heart of the old quarter of the Galilean village of Mi'ilya. It is one of the remarkable quadriburgium type castles. Three of its walls and three towers are well preserved. The castle started to deteriorate after it was occupied and now houses were constructed in it by the local inhabitants. In 1989 the local council together with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) put forward plans for a conservation project but the work was never begun.

    In the winter of 2016-2017 some of the stones of the northern wall began to fall and the urgency of a preservation project became apparent. I put forward a program for the preservation of the castle and with some difficulty overcame objections and gained the support of the local council and the IAA. Work commenced in May beginning with the most threatened part of the castle, and in July works were completed. Initial work was carried out and I am now preparing a major project of preservation and excavations under the sponsorship of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology in the University of Haifa, with the aid of the IAA and the local municipal council.

  • 16 Oct 2018 1:03 PM | Kyle Lincoln (Administrator)


    In the present stage of my research into the location of Guillaume II de Villehardouin’s castle of Grand Magne (Megaili Maini), I have examined other fortifications supposedly built by him around 1256. According to the Aragonese Chronicle of Morea, these included the castles of Vasilicata and Estella. The purpose of the examination was to ascertain any common characteristics which might have been replicated at Grand Magne.

    Vasilicata or Vasilica, formerly known as Sikyon, is the name given to the village on the south-eastern edge of the plateau facing Corinth. An important site in antiquity, the walls there were clearly re-utilized, with repairs and additions sometime before being mentioned as a fortification again in the late 1330s.

    A tower and walls survive at the site. A previous investigator has suggested that Villehardouin may have repaired the tower by adding on medieval courses above the Hellenistic foundations. But a closer examination shows that the tower seems to have been entirely reconstituted, as the Hellenistic blocks are not always located at the bottom of the tower (see photo).

    In other words, the tower, surrounded by thirteenth-century glazed pottery, was built using various surviving Hellenistic blocks in the area – it was not built on the foundations of a pre-existing tower.

    Estella or Astritzi is universally agreed to be the Kastro tis Orias located near Aghios Ioannis in Kynouria. The remains of the castle stand on a cone-shaped hill about 250 metres above the surrounding plateau. It protects the northern exit from the main mass of the Parnonas-Malevos Mountains, the home at the time of the Tsakonians, whose raids Villehardouin was trying to minimise by building the castle.

    Sections of its two walls, the outer one unworked, survive and encircle an impressive tower-keep at the top of the hill (see photo below).

    The entire site, which includes the remains of houses, is covered with shards of thirteenth-century glazed pottery; there are no signs of an earlier construction.

    My conclusion from examining these two sites is that they shared the common features of being built on high hills and possessing a tower or keep, as well as overseeing comprehensive sight-lines. Whereas Kastro tis Orias was built from scratch, Vasilicata re-utilized and entirely rebuilt pre-existing fortification components.

    My article on Grand Magne is being included in a forthcoming Crusades Subsidia volume entitled “Crusading and Archaeology”.  

  • 16 Oct 2018 12:48 PM | Kyle Lincoln (Administrator)

    MONTFORT CASTLE PROJECT – A joint project of the SSCLE and the Zinman Institute of Archaeology University of Haifa – Professor Adrian Boas, Dr Rabei Khamisy

    The Montfort Castle Project was established in 2006 with the aim of studying the principal fortress of the Teutonic Order in the western Galilee, Israel. In 2009 the SSCLE adopted the project as its co-sponsor together with the Zinman Institute of Archaeology of the University of Haifa. The first years of the project from 2006 to 2011 were devoted to surveys. In the summer of 2011, the first season of archaeological excavations took place since which there have been an additional seven seasons. The fieldwork is licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority with a permit from the Israel National Parks Authority and has been funded by the Israel Science Foundation (grants 1161/06 and 1032/14). Fieldwork is directed by Prof. Adrian Boas and Dr. Rabei Khamisy assisted by Dr. Rafael Lewis, with the participation of students and volunteers from the United States, Europe and Israel, and in recent seasons with participation of groups of students and scholars from Royal Holloway and the University of Reading.

    Excavations have concentrated on a number of locations in the castle - the Great Hall (2011), the central domestic building (2012, 2013, 2016, 2017), and the outer fortifications, outer ward and stables (2012, 2015, 2016, 2017). These excavations have provided abundant evidence for the development of the castle, the function of its components, the daily life and activities of the garrison, of the two Mamluk sieges (1266, 1271), and of the conquest and dismantling of the castle in the summer of 1271.

    The Seventh Season, Summer 2016: The Outer Fortifications and Outer Ward

    In July - August 2016 a four week excavation season (funded by the Israel Science Foundation, ISF Grant 1032/14) took place in the southern section of the outer fortifications during which a round tower was excavated down to its lower (basement) floor. The tower is preserved a height of around 3.5 metres (internally). It had a doorway on the east, the threshold of which is preserved, and at that level there was a wooden floor supported on wooden beams. East of the tower a room was partly exposed with a broad doorway on its south, that at a certain time had been blocked and subsequently a well-constructed chute (possibly from a latrine in the upper ward) was built against its exterior. The initial conclusion from examination of this area is that the outer wall did not extend further south but, if it existed, extended back up the slope on the east to join the westernmost part of the upper ward.

    Numerous small finds were recovered in the tower and in the adjacent chamber. These include large quantities of animal bones, local and imported ceramics, metal finds including many arrowheads, coins, mostly of thirteenth century date, a large quantity of fragments of glass vessels, iron waste from a forge and game pieces, a game board, and a cut bone industry for the manufacture of buttons, crossbow nuts and other objects.

    The principal aim of the 2017 excavations was to attempt to expose the line of the outer defenses in the south. As nothing can be seen of these defenses beyond a round tower in the south-west, it was hoped that excavations in the area of the tower would enlighten us on the direction they took from this point. The excavations seem to support the wall having turned north-east at this point up the steep hill to join the main building in the west of the upper ward. During the excavations the tower was entirely cleared as were part of the adjacent defenses with a blocked gate and possible latrine chute. The numerous material finds included ceramics, weapons, glass vessels, coins, animal bones and an industrial waste from a workshop producing items of worked bone.

    The Tower Excavated in 2016

    A Gilded Bronze Buckle found in the Tower

    The Eighth Season, Summer 2017: Discovery of a Previously Unknown Gothic Hall

    In the August 2017 season (funded by the Israel Science Foundation, ISF Grant 1032/14) an area to the west of the administrative building of the upper ward was excavated in a four-week season. A layer of debris was exposed, consisting of a large quantity of ashlars of various shapes. A large number of these are of ribs similar to those found in other parts of the castle. Also found was a section of a half-octagonal pier, a decorated cornice and a tas-de-charge with the two forms of ribs, and a few pieces of grisaille-decorated stained glass. The position of the architectural pieces that lie in the order they once stood – pier, cornice, tas-de-charge and ribs, are the result of Mamluk undermining that brought down the previously unknown upper storey hall that was part of the westernmost structure of the upper ward of the castle.

    Architectural Elements Found in Collapse in 2017. Remains of a Gothic Hall

  • 12 Dec 2017 5:51 PM | Kyle Lincoln (Administrator)

    Dr Christer Carlsson, who obtained his PhD from the University of Southern Denmark in 2010, has been focusing his research on the archaeological remains from houses and sites founded by the Military Orders between ca 1250-1500 A. D. His main area of interest has so far been the Scandinavian countries, but research has also been carried out in for example Italy and England. A site which was recently studied by Dr Carlsson is Shingay Hospitaller Commandery in Cambridgeshire, England. A magnetometer survey, followed by a resistivity survey, was carried out within the area in 2014. These two investigations revealed that a large number of walls and rubbed-out foundation trenches from various structures are still present beneath the grass. 

    A large east-west orientated building is likely to be the chapel, which should have been located in a central position. Other structures, located parallel to the supposed chapel, may be the foundation walls from the halls and living quarters of the Hospitaller brethren.

    We know from other, and similar, Military Order sites in both England and elsewhere that a large number of buildings would typically have been present within the site: Stables, barns, workshops, fishponds and mills were common features in large medieval rural farms. 

    The fully excavated Templar site of South Witham in Lincolnshire may for example be seen as a parallel and similar complex.

    The quality of the architecture at Shingay must have been very high indeed. When the medieval moat, which still surrounds the site, was drained and partly re-excavated a few years ago a number of beautiful and richly carved stones were collected from the fill of the moat.  Such high quality masonry would have been typical for a rich Military Orders settlement. Further studies of Shingay Hospitaller Commandery are expected to be carried out in a near future, and many interesting archaeological discoveries may still be revealed at this fascinating site.

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