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Medieval Jewish cemetery uncovered in Rome

Italian archaeologists have discovered part of the so-called Campus Iudeorum, the long-lost cemetery used by Rome’s medieval Jewish community.

Medieval Jewish cemetery uncovered in Rome
Graves arranged in rows at the Jewish cemetery that came to light in the Trastevere district
[Credit: Il Messaggero]
The discovery of 38 graves, with skeletal remains intact, was announced at a news conference this week at The National Roman Museum. A stone with part of a Hebrew inscription also was found.

The site, with graves dating from the 14th century to the early 17th century, was uncovered during excavations carried out during the restructuring of the Palazzo Leonori as the new headquarters of an insurance company.

Medieval Jewish cemetery uncovered in Rome
Nearly all the burials were devoid of grave goods, as required by Jewish ritual 
[Credit: Il Messaggero]
Archaeologists dug down as deep as 26 feet below the surface. Archaeologist Marzia Di Mento as saying that most of the recovered remains appeared to be of men, and wood fragments and nails indicated that the bodies had been placed in wooden coffins before burial. Two of the skeletons, the report said, apparently women, wore golden rings.

In addition to the cemetery, the excavations also uncovered remains of an ancient Roman tannery. When work is complete, parts of the two sites will comprise a small museum that can be visited by appointment.

Medieval Jewish cemetery uncovered in Rome
Archaeologists have also identified the remains of two monumental buildings 
of the Coraria (tannery) of Septimius Severus dating from the third century AD 
[Credit: Il Messaggero]
Located in Rome’s Trastevere district, the site of the cemetery was already known through maps and archival sources but had disappeared physically centuries ago.

It was taken over by the papal rulers at the end of the 16th century and finally razed in the mid-17th century when new city walls were built.

Medieval Jewish cemetery uncovered in Rome
Carving of feet, possibly the sign of a shoemaker 
[Credit: Il Messaggero]
At that time Jews, already confined to a ghetto, moved their cemetery to a location next to the Circus Maximus, which in turn was destroyed by the fascist regime in the 1930s.

The city rose garden now occupies that spot, with a small plaque commemorating it as the site of a Jewish cemetery.

Source: JTA [March 24, 2017]

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