Bodies discovered in Norwich well reveal city's anti-semitic history

Credit: ITV News Anglia
17 skeletons were discovered in a medieval well during the construction of a shopping centre in 2004 Credit: ITV News Anglia

Human remains found in a medieval well were likely to have belonged to Jews who were murdered as part of antisemitic violence during the 12th century, say researchers.

The well was found in Norwich in 2004 during the construction of the Chantry Place shopping centre.

Archaeological excavations then discovered the remains of at least 17 people, mostly children.

Four of the probable victims were relatives, including three young sisters, aged 5-10 years, 10-15 years and a young adult.

The bodies were reburied in the city's Jewish cemetery in 2013.

Researchers analysed DNA from six of the individuals and have now revealed findings of a strong genetic link with modern Ashkenazi Jews.

According to the study, it shows the people were victims of a historically recorded antisemitic massacre by local crusaders and their supporters in Norwich on 6 February 1190 AD.

Researchers reconstructed the face of a male adult (left) and a child (right) based on skeletal remains. Credit: PA

The study showed the skeletons in the well were "oddly positioned and mixed", which may have been caused by the bodies being deposited head-first shortly after death.

Experts suggest these findings hint at mass fatalities such as famine, disease, or murder.

Dr Selina Brace, a principal researcher at the Natural History Museum and lead author on a new research paper, said: “I’m delighted and relieved that 12 years after we first started analysing the remains of these individuals, technology has caught up and helped us to understand this historical cold case of who these people were and why we think they were murdered.”

Dr Tom Booth, a senior research scientist at the Francis Crick Institute, said the finding of the bodies "forces us to confront the real horror of what happened".


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