Archeologists Find 500-Year-Old Jewish Skeleton in Brazil

Perfectly preserved skeleton found during earthwork where Jews in 1636 built the first known synagogue in the New World.

Ha’aratz
July 21, 2013

Kahal Zur synagogue, Recife, Brazil.
Kahal Zur synagogue, Recife, Brazil.

Brazilian archaeologists unearthed what they said are the 500-year-old remains of a Jewish man in Recife.

A report Thursday in the online edition of the Rio de Janeiro-based O Globo described the discovery earlier this month of a perfectly preserved skeleton of a male adult. The skeleton was found during earthwork in Recife in northern Brazil, where Portuguese Jews in 1636 built the first known synagogue in the New World.

Marcos Albuquerque of the Federal University of Pernambuco, who oversaw the dig around the skeleton, told O Globo he had no doubt the man was Jewish and that he was buried sometime in the 16th century.

“In Christian tradition, it is customary to bury the dead with their hands crossed over their chest, but this man was buried with hands laid alongside his body before rigor mortis set in,” Albuquerque said. “Furthermore, the body was buried in simple shroud without jewelry or any other private belonging and without casket.”

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