France played the single most important role in European diplomacy and warfare before 1815.
In the 19th century it built a colonial empire second only to the British Empire, but was humiliated in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, which marked the rise of Germany to dominance in Europe.
Skeletons in three graves in southern France, found facing towards Mecca, are believed to date from the eighth century.
Archaeologists working in southern France have identified three graves that are believed to represent the oldest Muslim burials ever found in Europe, dating to the eighth century.
A careful analysis in the years since has shown that the men were all laid on their sides, facing in the direction of Mecca, according to traditional Muslim burial rites.
One was in his 20s when he died, another in his 30s and the third was older than 50. Another Muslim grave site has been found in Marseimulle, but it dates to the 13th century.
The skeletons at medieval site at Nîmes were found facing Mecca, and a genetic analysis showed their paternal lineage was North African, said the study in the journal Plos One.
Furthermore, radiocarbon dating shows the bones likely date from the seventh to ninth centuries, suggesting they came from the Muslim conquests of Europeduring that period.
“Given all of these data, we propose that the skeletons from the Nîmes burials belonged to Berbers integrated into the Umayyad army during the Arab expansion in North Africa,” said the study.The findings add a new dimension to knowledge about the era, which had been limited to history books and rare bits of archeological data.