The Jewish Burial Ground at Jewbury


list of authors
Jane McComish (Lilley)
G. Stroud
D. R. Brothwell
M. H. Williamson
list of contributors
P. V. Addyman
S. Browne
J. B. Carrott
K. M. Dobney
A. R. Hall
H. K. Kenward
P. J. Ottaway
D. M. Palliser
E. Paterson
S. Rees Jones
J. E. Richardson
P. Watson
Is Part Of
The Archaeology of York [Series]
The Medieval Cemeteries [Volume]
Council for British Archaeology for York Archaeological Trust
Date Copyrighted
Date Available
Digitally available on 10 November 2023
Excavations by York Archaeological Trust to the north-east of the city walls in 1982- 3 uncovered the remains of a cemetery. Historical sources confirmed this was the cemetery of the Jewish community of York, and showed it was first used sometime between 1177 and 1230 and remained in use until the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. Approximately half of the cemetery was investigated, and the remains of nearly 500 individuals were recovered for anthropological analysis. The results are of wide-ranging importance since they represent the only detailed study of a medieval Jewish population from England.

The individual graves rarely intercut, making it impossible to provide a relative chronology for the bulk of the burials within the cemetery. The scale of the excavations, however, did enable studies to be made of the distribution of the burials according to age and sex, a trend surface analysis of burial alignment, and an estimation of the size of the medieval Jewish population of York. Evidence was found for a remarkably uniform burial rite, and information was gained on the methods of laying out, burial positions, and the use of coffins. This information was compared with what is known of Jewish burial practices from historical sources and excavations elsewhere in Europe. Further comparisons were made with contemporaneous Christian sites within York to assess the impact of the two religions upon burial practice.

Because of the need for rapid reburial of the human remains there was insufficient time available to record all the skeletal characteristics fully, but a great deal of information was obtained. An indication is given of the dental health of the population with a detailed study of dental calculus, and of the pathological changes in the bones caused by congenital abnormalities, injuries and disease. An indication of surgical practice is evidenced by the attempted treatment of a cranial injury. Multivariate analyses were carried out using the available cranial measurements to compare the material from Jewbury with that from the Christian cemetery of St Helen-on-the-Walls, York, as a test for generic distinctiveness between the medieval Jewish and English sample populations. The results showed that the two groups were not distinctively dissimilar as a whole, but individuals were notable. A wider comparison of metric and non-metric cranial and post-cranial traits recorded at Jewbury and other cemeteries in York produced similar results. The volume of recorded evidence and resulting analytical data acknowledge the site's paramount archaeological and historical importance.
Rights Holder
York Archaeological Trust
CC BY 4.0
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A0205 Jewbury

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