Burials found at ancient Jewish cemetery in Rome

Archaeologists unearthed 38 skeletons buried in a Jewish cemetery more than 500 years ago, located in an area identified on ancient maps as “Campus Iudeorum” – Latin for “Field of Jews” — in the Trastevere quarter of modern Rome.

Site of excavations (by Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency)

The bodies were believed to have been buried there between the mid-14th and mid-17th centuries. The bodies were buried in plain wooden caskets without any objects and were only identified after a fragment of a Hebrew epigraph was found at the dig. According to archaeologists the absence of headstones was a result of decrees issued by Pope Urban VIII, who ruled in 1625 that Jews be buried in unmarked graves and ordered headstones to be removed from existing graves.

Hook from scales found in a burial (by Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency)

The skeletons were predominantly adult males and there were few children. Scientific analysis also showed signs of a poor hygiene and inadequate diet lacking in protein. The only objects found were two gold rings found on a woman’s fingers and part of an iron scale attached to a man’s hand. Apart from the cemetery, archaeologists also found the remains of an ancient tannery at the site dating back to the era of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus in the 3rd century.

(after USA Today & Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency)

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