Jewish bones found in medieval well in England

Workers preparing ground for shopping mall in Norwich find bones of 17 people who DNA expert says all came from same Ashkenazi family.

June 28, 2011 15:43
1 minute read.
Jewish cemetary (illustrative).

jewish cemetary 224.88. (photo credit: Michael J. Jordan)


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BERLIN - Bones found in a medieval well in England are probably the remains of Jews murdered in the 12th century, forensic scientists say.

The burial site in Norwich is the only one of its kind ever found, according to the BBC, which in July will broadcast a documentary on the discovery.

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Workers preparing the ground for construction of a shopping center discovered the bones of 17 individuals, including 11 children, in 2004. Archaeologist Giles Emery was called in to excavate the bones.

A team of scientists led by forensic anthropologist Sue Black of the University of Dundee's Centre for Anthropology and Human Identification analyzed the bones, and DNA expert Ian Barnes determined that the victims were all related, most probably coming from one Ashkenazi Jewish family.

"We certainly know about the persecution of the Jewish population that went on in that period, but it wasn't certain that it had happened in this particular area in Norwich," Caroline Wilkinson, who works in cranio-facial identification, told JTA.

Wilkinson has reconstructed the faces of one adult and one child.

The scientists, who along with archaeological investigations also work on contemporary crime-scene forensics, have speculated that the individuals were thrown into the well -- victims of Jewish hatred that was rampant at the time.

Wilkinson said the well was discovered at the center of a known area of settlement.

"There are records of Jewish people being forced out of the area and of murders being blamed on Jews," she said, "but there was no concrete evidence of persecution until now."

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