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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Murdered 13th c. Jewish family found in a well in England

From BBC:

The remains of 17 bodies found at the bottom of a medieval well in England could have been victims of persecution, new evidence has suggested.

The most likely explanation is that those down the well were Jewish and were probably murdered or forced to commit suicide, according to scientists who used a combination of DNA analysis, carbon dating and bone chemical studies in their investigation.

The skeletons date back to the 12th or 13th Centuries at a time when Jewish people were facing persecution throughout Europe.

They were discovered in 2004 during an excavation of a site in the centre of Norwich, ahead of construction of the Chapelfield Shopping Centre. The remains were put into storage and have only recently been the subject of investigation.

Seven skeletons were successfully tested and five of them had a DNA sequence suggesting they were likely to be members of a single Jewish family.

DNA expert Dr Ian Barnes, who carried out the tests, said: "This is a really unusual situation for us. This is a unique set of data that we have been able to get for these individuals.

"I am not aware that this has been done before - that we have been able to pin them down to this level of specificity of the ethnic group that they seem to come from."

Eleven of the 17 skeletons were those of children aged between two and 15. The remaining six were adult men and women.

Pictures taken at the time of excavation suggested the bodies were thrown down the well together, head first.

A close examination of the adult bones showed fractures caused by the impact of hitting the bottom of the well. But the same damage was not seen on the children's bones, suggesting they were thrown in after the adults who cushioned the fall of their bodies.
(h/t T34)