Pottery from the Jewish Quarter, Nájera

In Summer 2013, as part of a larger regional study of settlement and ceramic production in the Najerilla valley, we began a study of the medieval ceramic material in the Museo Najerillense. There has been very little examination of medieval ceramics in La Rioja generally, or in Nájera specifically, apart from a short examination by Esther Loyola Pérez in 1981. Among the wares represented in the museum is a coherent group of fragments in a grey fabric that are associated with the hill of Malpica, which overlooks the modern town of Nájera.

In the Middle Ages, the hill of Malpica was associated with the town’s Jewish Quarter. The earliest Jewish Quarter at Nájera was located in the town itself but sometime in the 11th or 12th century, it was moved to Malpica, likely due to population growth. The new Jewish Quarter was one of the most significant in Christian Spain. It had its own walls and city charter, which was used as a model for other Jewish Quarters in northern Spain. Its population, estimated from medieval documents, may have been about 500 people.

The material in the Museo Najerillense provides an opportunity to study the material culture of an important Jewish community and at the same time fill in gaps in our understanding of the pottery tradition in La Rioja during the Middle Ages. We are currently in the process of analyzing the forms and characteristic fabrics of this gray ware, and plan to submit our finds for publication in the near future. Preliminary findings were presented at the Archaeology of Iberia conference at Brown University in February 2014, and will be linked below when available.