Friday, April 19, 2024

Student uncovers Jewish relics

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NEAR FOUR-HUNDRED YEAR-OLD artefacts have been unearthed from the historic Jewish synagogue in Bridgetown.The significant archaeological find was made by United States student Derek Miller of the College of William and Mary, in Virginia, who is on a quest to compare the now extinct Jewish community on the island of St Eustatius and that in Barbados. In the space of two hours last weekend, Miller unearthed not only an abundance of discarded material and animal bones, but fragments of 17th century pottery and even smoking pipes. “Two of the nicer pieces we found here are copper tongs, or one-half of the copper tongs, and then I found the base of a very nice wine glass – very heavy. So that’s some of the nicer stuff,” he told the Daily Nation.And peeking out from under the wall was half of the bottom of an onion bottle.Miller, who is here for six weeks, explained the material came from the middle to late 17th century. “We have been able to find material from the 1650s all the way up to the present,” he explained.“Starting with the very popular mass-produced ceramics of the 18th century – the cream wares, the pearl ware – we’re now moving back into the 17th century where we find North Devon Gravel ware, delft ware, and local produced Barbadian wares,” Miller said.He has been able to date the pieces by “peeling back the soil layers”.“Each soil layer has a different colour, a different texture, a different feel and within [those layers] are different artefacts, and having studied the material culture from various places, you can begin to date based on the ceramic type and the glass type,” he said.History Professor Dr Karl Watson explained the significance of the find.He revealed that the Sephardic Jewish population built five houses around the two important features of Jewish life – the synagogue and mikvah (the ritual bath).“The Jewish community, although relatively small, was important in the commercial life of Bridgetown, and they were important in what we call the North Atlantic Commercial System. “They had trading relationships throughout Europe; they had access to capital; they had intricate and inter-familial trading relations,” Watson explained.

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