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Medieval Jewish Graves Unearthed in Rome

Monday, March 27, 2017

Rome Jewish cemeteryROME, ITALY—Haaretz reports that 38 graves were unearthed in a section of a medieval Jewish cemetery labeled on historic maps as the “Field of the Jews.” Located near Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood, where Jews first arrived in the second century B.C., the cemetery was used from the mid-fourteenth century to the mid-seventeenth century. Pope Urban VIII decreed in 1625 that Jews should be buried in unmarked graves and ordered pre-existing tombstones to be destroyed. During the recent renovation of a palazzo courtyard, the excavators discovered a fragment of a tombstone with a few letters in Hebrew in a “layer of destruction” above the simple burials that helped make the identification. Archaeologist Daniela Rossi said that two gold rings were found on one woman’s fingers, and part of a scale was recovered from a man’s grave, “perhaps as a reference to his profession, or a sign that he was a just person,” Rossi said. The skeletons also exhibit signs of malnutrition, and a lack of protein in the diet, which may reflect the harsh conditions for Jews living in the medieval city. The remains will be reburied. To read about a Jewish section of Krakow, Poland, go to “Off the Grid.”

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