Laws of the Land

Digs & Discoveries July/August 2021

(Left: University of Bristol; Right: Oxford Archaeology)
SHARE:

At least two families in Oxford, England, may have followed a kosher diet more than 900 years ago. Archaeologists have uncovered remnants of two adjoining houses that were owned by Jewish families in the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries, according to medieval census records. In a privy attached to the houses, researchers uncovered fragments of cookware and thousands of animal bones. A team led by University of Bristol archaeologist Julie Dunne conducted lipid-residue analysis to determine whether the families observed Jewish dietary laws. “During the period these families were living at the site, we see a total absence of pig bones and an abundance of fowl and kosher fish remains,” says Dunne. Chemical traces detected on the sherds, she adds, suggest that the vessels were used to process ruminants, including cows and sheep, but not pork or dairy products. According to Jewish dietary law, it is forbidden to eat pork or shellfish, or to mix meat and dairy products in the same container. By contrast, vessels from an earlier Anglo-Saxon assemblage recovered at the site, and those unearthed at a nearby medieval site, appear to have contained both ruminant and nonruminant animal products. This suggests the families had distinct cooking and eating habits.

MORE TO DISCOVER

Letter from Nigeria

July/August 2024

A West African Kingdom's Roots

Excavations in Benin City reveal a renowned realm’s deep history

Artifacts July/August 2024

Etruscan Oil Lamp

Read Article
Etruscan Hanging Oil Lamp
(Courtesy Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca e della Città di Cortona; © DeA Picture Library/Art Resource, NY)

Around the World July/August 2024

TONGA

Read Article
(Phillip Parton/ANU)

Digs & Discoveries July/August 2024

Bronze Age Beads Go Abroad

Read Article

Features July/August 2024

The Assyrian Renaissance

Archaeologists return to Nineveh in northern Iraq, one of the ancient world’s grandest imperial capitals

Read Article
(Land of Nineveh Archaeological Project)