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Oxford unearths a lost graveyard

Site of 700-year-old Jewish cemetery will be marked centuries after its disappearance

Jewish graves (Illustrative photo: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Jewish graves (Illustrative photo: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

A long-lost Jewish graveyard has finally been found — for a second time.

A forgotten cemetery in Oxford, England, will soon be marked with a new memorial stone, commemorating the site where the town’s Jews buried their dead before the community’s expulsion more than 700 years ago. Oxford’s city council attempted to pay tribute to the cemetery by laying down a marker back in 1931 — but misidentified the graveyard’s location.

The proper site was discovered by Pam Manix, an historian for Oxford Jewish Heritage, an organization that studies the area’s Jewish past. Manix learned the cemetery’s whereabouts after examining the archives of the university’s Magdalen College.

One of her colleagues, Evie Kemp, told the BBC that Jews arrived in the area following William the Conqueror’s 1066 invasion of England, and “played a key part in the life of the city and the early development of the university” over the next two centuries. When their cemetery was taken away from them in 1231, the town’s Jews received “a small section of wasteland” in its place, where they could bury their dead without bringing the corpses outside Oxford’s Jewish quarter.

Although the cemetery’s location was forgotten following the Jews’ 1290 expulsion from England, the path to the graveyard lived on, referred to even today by locals as “Deadman’s Walk.”

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