Research work continues on skeletons found in Norwich city centre

Researchers are continuing to investigate the story behind skeletons found on the site of Chapelfield when foundations for the shopping centre were being dug.

Seventeen skeletons, thought to have lay there for centuries, were found in 2004 and have been the subject of several avenues of research and a BBC2 History Cold Case programme. Analysis for the TV show suggested the bones had DNA consistent with Jewish communities – and now more extensive research is being done to confirm if this is the case.

Clive Roffe, the Norwich representative of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said he hopes the work will be resolved soon so the skeletons can be buried.

'We would like to see that the remains are given a respectful burial,' he said.

Alan West, curator of archaeology at Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, said the full DNA analysis was being undertaken by Mainz University, in Germany, and Royal Holloway, University of London, and it could be a few months before the results are known.

He said Norfolk Museums had had a request from Norwich's Jewish population asking for the skeletons to be reburied, and he said if the new DNA analysis supported the previous suggestion the skeletons were Jewish then it was likely they would be handed over to the Jewish community for reburial.

He added that if the new analysis does not support the previous finding then the skeletons would be retained by Norfolk Museums.

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The skeletons, 11 of them small children, were found about five metres below ground level in what was thought to be the bottom of a well. Mr West said research has suggested the skeletons are from between 1150AD and 1300AD, and are all likely to be from East Anglia. As previously reported, research for the History Cold Case programme concluded the people were believed to have been murdered or committed suicide. The analysis suggesting the skeletons were Jewish was thought to be a key finding –the group had lived in a time rife with anti-Semitism as Europe become more Christian.

Norwich was known to have had a Jewish community since 1135 and the community lived a few hundred yards from the well.

Are you involved in a new project investigating the history of Norwich? Call reporter Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email