Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Medieval Jewish Homes in Oxford

 From Haaretz:

Kashrut, the body of Jewish dietary laws, wasn’t born like Venus, neither fully formed and perfect nor from a clamshell. The rules evolved gradually over more than two thousand years and only took the shape familiar to today’s Jewry in early modern Europe. By the time of the medieval period in Europe, the practices were firm, leaving aside discrepancies in precise observances among the Jewish communities around the world such as whether chicken could be cooked in milk since they don’t lactate anyway.

Now, archaeologists from Bristol University report identifying two Jewish households in early medieval Oxford, based in large part on the missing oink.

Absent dedicatory plaques or Jewish symbols, identifying Jewish communities in archaeology starts with what isn’t there: a sign of the swine. In Israeli archaeological circles, ancient settlements are often categorized as “Jewish” or “other”: Canaanite, Philistine, etc. by the presence or absence of pig. It’s hardly categorical but there it is.

In the case of the study published Wednesday in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, there was quite a wealth of evidence that two of the medieval homes discovered in a salvage excavation, done ahead of development works in central Oxford, were Jewish. Julie Dunne, the lead author on the study, confirms that no Jewish symbology was found in the site of the two house, but in fact, they were part of a Jewish neighborhood, as records indicate. (Read more.)


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