Chicken? Our ancestors ate quail


Sixteen years of archaeological excavations have uncovered snapshots of what life was like for Jews living in the East End of London 150 years ago.

Backyard rubbish pits preserved everything that two Jewish families, the Woolfs and Van Millingens, threw away while living in Spitalfields in the mid-19th century.

Items discovered by archaeologists from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) included umbrella parts, a badge in the shape of the Jerusalem Cross and an unusually large amount of quail bones.

Nigel Jeffries, senior finds specialist at the museum, said the backyard pits were "like a time capsule".

Discovering the umbrella parts at 5 Spital Square helped to identify the house as belonging to Charles Van Millingen, an umbrella manufacturer who headed an Ashkenazi family originally from Rotterdam.

Mr Jeffries said that despite being an upper-class family that owned a factory, the Van Millingens "moved around different parts of London every five years.

"It was the same with the Woolfs. They were rag-and-bone men, but they also moved around a lot."

The Woolfs, who lived at 31 Fort Street for eight years in the 1870s, threw away "a lot of quail bones… Presumably that was evidence of their diet, but we found hardly any quail at all in the rest of Spitalfields. Indeed, in excavations of this time in London there was hardly any evidence of quail bones. Almost all of it was in the Woolf household."

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