Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Well

The picture reconstructs the positions in which a number of skeletons were found in a well in Norwich. The 17 skeletons date back to the 12th or 13th centuries and, from DNA testing, they seem to have come from the members of one extended family of Jewish people. Norwich had hosted a large Jewish population in the period after the Norman Conquest, but as the 12th century wore on they faced increasing persecution, including mass murder during sectarian riots.

It is in one of these riots that the 17 people killed met their terrible fate. They appear to have been thrown head first into the well by their Christian neighbours. The dead included men, women and children.

Those Jewish people who had not been killed in pogroms and riots were expelled from England in 1290. They only began to return in the 17th century, during the more enlightened rule of Oliver Cromwell and the Protectorate.

Those of us who live in countries far away from Central and Eastern Europe find it easy to forget the ghastly history of religious and ethnic persecution that Jewish people have suffered. The well reminds us that these kind of horrific crimes once happened closer to us than we would like to think.


An inuit panda production

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