Archaeologists confirmed a victory tale of the First Crusade, when Christians retaking Jerusalem filled in a defensive ditch with stones to retake the city.

During the First Crusade when Christian soldiers were sieging Jerusalem to retake the city in 1099, an army led by Raymond of Saint-Gilles coming at the southern walls found themselves stymied by a defensive ditch.

Raymond promised one gold denarius to any crusader who added to the ditch three stones. After three days, the ditch had been completely filled in, and a siege tower was able to advance towards the walls turning the tide of battle.

Some throughout history have considered the victory account to be exaggerated from reality, given the vast heroism one would have to display to add stones to the ditch during the battle. However, researchers from the Mount Zion Archaeological Project led by director Rafi Lewis have confirmed the epic tale.

“Anyone who ever dealt with the Crusade in Jerusalem knows this story. It’s a very saucy bit of story. But, nobody ever found the ditch, so people said maybe it’s made up.”

Excavating at a dig site near the southern side where the siege took place, they noticed the layers of sediment were sloped in the wrong direction, indicative of a once-dug ditch that was backfilled.

“One day I was glancing toward the west, and I noticed something bizarre – the layers were sloping in the wrong direction.”

Fully excavated, the ditch was 56 feet wide and 14 feet deep. The team found artifacts dating back to the Middle Ages in the nearby stone ruins of a house: arrowheads, Cross pedants worn by crusaders, and gold jewelry worn by Fatimid saracens.

Lewis said all signs point to it being “the real thing”

“It wouldn’t be farfetched to almost see what’s happening there. The Crusaders are coming. The Fatimids are getting ready for this ditch, so they abandon the house, they cut the moat. Outside the city, everybody runs in to take refuge inside. Maybe a piece of jewelry is left behind, on the one hand. And then the Crusaders are coming into this house when they are attacking the city from the south. It would be very convenient to use the remains of the house as a shelter from the shooting that will come against the Crusaders from the city itself.”

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