Remains Found in Medieval UK Well Identified as Jewish Victims of 1190 AD Pogrom

Based the skeletal remains of the victims, researchers reconstructed the faces of a male adult and a child. Photo: Prof. Caroline Wilkinson / Liverpool John Moores University.

September 7, 2022

The bodies of at least 17 children and adults found in a medieval well in Norwich, England, have been identified as victims of an 1190 AD pogrom, DNA researchers revealed last week. 

The remains were found in 2004 during excavations at a site intended for the construction of a shopping center.

“I’m really excited that 12 years on [from our first investigations], we’ve finally been able to use historical records, archaeology and ancient DNA analyses to shed new light on a historical crime, and in doing so sequenced the oldest genomes from a Jewish population,” Dr. Selina Brace, lead author of the research from the Natural History Museum in London, stated.

“When we look at the DNA from [the remains], they’re actually more closely associated to modern day Ashkenazi Jews than to any other modern population,” Brace noted.

Three of the victims were identified as young sisters.

The pogrom took place during the Third Crusade.

The chronicler Ralph de Diceto wrote in Imagines Historiarum II, “Accordingly on 6th February [in 1190 AD] all the Jews who were found in their own houses at Norwich were butchered; some had taken refuge in the castle.”

The research report can be read in full in Current Biology here.