Earliest evidence of kosher diet in UK found in 800-year-old Oxford animal bones

Latrine of Jewish homes, dated shortly after William the Conqueror’s invitation to Jews to settle in England, features no remnants of pig or other non-kosher animals

The lower limbs of a Neanderthal exposed at the open-air site of Ein Qashish, on the banks of the Kishon River in northern Israel. (Erella Hovers, courtesy, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Illustrative: Bones discovered at a dig in northern Israel. (Erella Hovers, courtesy, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

JTA — Archaeologists in the United Kingdom discovered findings from a medieval Jewish community of Oxford that they said were the earliest evidence of a religious diet.

The findings, locked inside pottery fragments excavated in Oxford, go back to the 12th and 13th centuries following William the Conqueror’s invitation to Jews in Northern France to settle in England.

The fragments came from two former homes in Oxford’s center that belonged to Jews: Jacob f. mag. Moses and Elekin f. Bassina, according to a report on the findings last week, in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, by the researchers from the University of Bristol.

“A remarkable animal bone assemblage was unearthed in this latrine, dominated by domestic fowl (mainly goose), and with a complete absence of pig bones, hinting at a kosher diet,” the researchers wrote.

Fish bones included only species such as herring, which is kosher, they added.

The lead author of the research, Julie Dunne, from the University of Bristol’s School of Chemistry, said in a statement about the study: “This is a remarkable example of how biomolecular information extracted from medieval pottery, and combined with ancient documents and animal bones, has provided a unique insight into 800-year-old Jewish dietary practices.”

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