Medieval artifacts from Chelarevo: Jewish, shamanistic, pagan

A necropolis at Chelarevo was inhabited in the late 8th and early 9th centuries.

Chelarevo's Jewish artifacts remain mysterious decades after their discovery in 1972. Scholars are divided over whether they come from a Khazarian Jewish community, an Avar Jewish community (if any really existed), an Israelite Jewish community, or some combination thereof. Some of the skulls in the burials were racially Mongoloid, whereas the ancient Israelites were Caucasoid.

The Jewish graves included Roman brick fragments with engravings of menorahs, etrogs, and lulavs. Several apparently Hebrew inscriptions were also found on some of the fragments.

Distinctly non-Jewish graves were also at the site. These were the graves of horsemen and in one case they sacrificed a horse to be buried. The Turkic shamanists often sacrificed horses in rituals, but Jews never did. The horsemen's graves also included at least one leather belt, armor, and other objects.

Slavic burials at the site contained several objects and some of the bodies were cremated. Cremation was allowed under Slavic paganism but prohibited by Jewish law, so again we see a clear distinction between the Slavic and Jewish burials just as there is a distinction between the horsemen's burials and the Jewish burials. The evidence as a whole casts doubt on the theory that the segment of Chelarevo's population that were Mongoloid horsemen were practicioners of Judaism.

Some artifacts from Chelarevo are currently housed and displayed at the Museum of Vojvodina in Novi Sad, Serbia.

The following photos from the Museum of Vojvodina are published on this site with the permission of the photographer, Eugene Wiglin.

  • Photo 1
  • Photo 2
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  • Photo 4

    Wiglin's remarks: "There is one showcase with findings from Celarevo necropolis. It contains some pottery, metal belts and also five brick pieces with menora, lulav and ethrog carved on them."

    The Provincial Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments, Novi Sad, is the authority that's responsible for the dig site in Chelarevo, which is located in the place called "Chipska Shuma", meaning "the forest of Chib". Their photos of artifacts are here.

    The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) tells us that other artifacts from Chelarevo "can be seen at Novi Sad City Museum:Mamula's Barracks, Upper Terrace, Petrovaradin Fortress, Novi Sad" as of January 2009. According to this, Chelarevo is "about 20 miles west of Novi Sad" and "55.6 miles NW of Beograd".

    Alternate names of Chelarevo:

    "The Jews of Khazaria" contains discussion of Chelarevo on pages 167-168 of the second edition.

    Menore iz Čelareva is a paperback book in the Serbian language that was published in 1980. It's presented by the Jewish Historical Museum in Belgrade (Savez jevrejskih opština Jugoslavije) and authored by Radovan Bunardžić, Lavoslav Kadelburg, and Ljubomir Vujaklija. 170 pages including illustrations and maps.

  • Holdings in WorldCat libraries

    Other archaeological sites:

  • The Khazar Fortress of Sarkel
  • Khazar Burial Mounds at Chastiye Kurgany
  • Khazar-Era Fortress of Golden Hills (Zolotiye Gorki)
  • The Khazar Capital City of Atil

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