New archaeological evidence: Proof medieval U.K. Jews kept kosher

Dig on grounds of Oxford’s old Jewish quarter uncovers new evidence that medieval British Jews observed the laws of kashrut.

Dan Verbin, Canada ,

Kosher sign
Kosher sign
Flash 90

An archeological dig at a former shopping site on the grounds of Oxford’s old Jewish quarter has uncovered never before seen evidence that medieval British Jews observed the laws of kashrut.

In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle, Bristol University bio-molecular archaeologist Dr. Julie Dunne described being “blown away” by her team’s finding.

“Normally you would expect a mixture of cow, sheep, goat and pig. Instead we found a massive, I mean massive, amount of chicken and goose bones,” she said.

They recovered 171 bones from the medieval site, with 136 of those being from poultry. They found no pig bones, cow hindquarter bones, shellfish remains or other residue from non-kosher animals.

They also discovered over 2,000 pottery shards, upon which they performed organic residue analysis. They were able to isolate individual types of animal fat that had absorbed into the 800-year old ceramic cooking dishes.

“This process allows us to distinguish animal fats from ruminants and non-ruminants, as well as from dairy products,” she said. “What we found was astonishingly precise.”

Their findings showed that the fats absorbed into the pots were from kosher animals. They found no traces of non-kosher fats. They also found no sign that meat and milk had been mixed in the same pots.

Their findings only related to the specific dig site and only for the time period in which Jews lived in the area. Outside of those confines, archeologists have discovered a vast array of non-kosher food residue. Proving that Jews ate kosher meals while their neighbors did not.

Dunn’s findings are the first physical evidence that Jews in medieval England kept kosher. While English Jews during that time period faced discrimination, in many ways they were very assimilated, reported the Jewish Chronicle. Evidence they kept kosher is an astonishing discovery. These new findings shed light on the religious observance of a community whose presence all but disappeared after the 1290 expulsion of Jews from the Kingdom of England.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)