The 720-year-old London shofar found to be only 200

By Marcus Dysch, August 28, 2008

Two shofarot thought to pre-date the expulsion of Jews from Britain are in fact much more recent, radiocarbon dating tests have revealed.

Small samples of the shofarot - rams' horns - excavated more than 150 years ago underwent a complex procedure in an attempt to prove whether they were created before the expulsion of Jews from Britain, in 1290, during the reign of Edward I. However, the findings show that the items - one found in the River Thames in 1850, and the other during an excavation in the City of London five years later - were most likely to have been made around 1800.

The shofar found in 1855 now belongs to the Jewish Museum, North London, which hopes to put it on display when it reopens following redevelopment next year.

The museum's Sarah Jillings said: "It was a useful opportunity to use the technology available to find out whether the objects were from the pre-expulsion period. "This is a realistic outcome, but at least now we know definitively."

Featuring a shaped mouthpiece and zig-zag decoration, the shofar found in the Thames has a split in its base which may have made it unusable, leading to its burial.

It is displayed at the Cuming Museum in Southwark, and curator Tamara Chase said: "The shofar was part of a collection which started the museum in the early 1900s.

"It is an extremely interesting object to have and finding out more about it is very important to us. But there are still many questions to be answered."

The Jewish Museum also intends to display a medieval mikvah, excavated in the City of London, when it reopens.

Last updated: 12:16pm, August 28 2008