Washington, August 26 : Radiocarbon dating of two Jewish ritual instruments, which are horn-shaped, found in London a century and a half ago, has dashed hopes that they date from the period before the Jewish community was expelled in 1290.
According to a report in the Times, the instruments are post-medieval and one of them may never have been finished or used in the synagogue.
The instrument, know as 'shofar', has been mentioned 69 times in the Bible, with its first occurrence in the book of Exodus.
Shofarot are used in the synagogue during the month of Elul, which commemorates Moses's time on Mount Sinai and they are played on the holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Of the examples found in London, the first was found at Vauxhall during dredging of the Thames in 1850 and is preserved in the Cuming Museum in Southwark.
The other discovery was in Leadenhall Street in the City in 1855, where the Bricklayers' Hall was used as a synagogue from 1761. The horn now belongs to the Jewish Museum in Camden Town.
Jews were excluded from England from the time of Edward I until Cromwell's rule in the 1650s, and to researcher Tamara Chase and her colleagues, it seemed a good idea to see if the shofarot belonged to the earlier or later period.
For the research, tiny samples of horn were subjected to AMS (accelerator mass spectrometer) dating at Oxford.
The Vauxhall shofar, with a shaped mouthpiece and zigzag-decorated bell, is more than 95 per cent certain to date from the period 1630-1939, with a two-thirds chance of dating from after 1800. It is most likely of 18th or early 19th century date.
As to why it was found in the Thames is unknown: a split in the base made it unusable and unusable ritual objects should be buried.
This flaw may have developed during manufacture, so that the horn was never used formally as a shofar.
The Leadenhall Street shofar yielded the same date ranges, but its origin remains a mystery.