Letters in the Dust: The Epigraphy and Archaeology of Medieval Jewish Cemeteries

Leonard Rutgers and Ortal-Paz Saar

Omslag van het boek Letters in the Dust (2023)

In their new book Letters in the Dust. The Epigraphy and Archaeology of Medieval Jewish Cemeteries, Professor in Late Antiquity Leonard Rutgers and Assistant Professor Ortal-Paz Saar open up the field of medieval Jewish archaeology and epigraphy for further study.

Containing a series of essays written by leading researchers in the field, this richly illustrated book provides scholars as well as heritage professionals with the latest insights into the material culture of late ancient and medieval Jewish cemeteries in Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and the British Isles.

Reconfiguring Diaspora

Conceived of by Ortal-Paz Saar as part of the Reconfiguring Diaspora Project led by Leonard Rutgers, Letters in the Dust brings back to life people who often left no other trace in history than their own earthly remains. They also, however, represent the very core of the communities that Jewish history is made of.

The volume offers a unique insight into how such people framed their identity, honoured their dead, used art to alleviate suffering, and led meaningful lives all over Europe. It discusses the latest archaeological discoveries and excavations and also delves into the ethics of Jewish funerary archaeology.

Future work

The international collaboration that ensued within the Letters in the Dust project has since resulted in further major research projects at Utrecht University in the field Jewish studies. These include PEACE, the Portal of Epigraphy, Archaeology, Conservation and Education on Jewish Funerary Culture, as well as the Genetic Legacies Project, that looks at Jewish migration through the combined lenses of population genetics, archaeology, and history.