nazareth archaeology remains 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
A major archeological discovery just before Christmas could explain what life was like for Jesus and the Jewish community of Nazareth in which he grew up.
Just 100 meters from the Church of the Annunciation, archeologists have exposed the remains of several walls of a house thought to date to the first century. It is the first time that archeologists have found remains of dwellings in Nazareth from this period.
The find was uncovered over the past few months, when workers dug up the courtyard of a former convent to make room for the construction of the International Center of Mary of Nazareth on the site.
"The discovery is of the utmost importance since it reveals for the very first time a house from the Jewish village of Nazareth and thereby sheds lights on the way of life at the time of Jesus," Dr. Yardenna Alexandre, excavations director at the Antiquities Authority, said on Monday.
"The building that we found is small and modest and it is most likely typical of the dwellings in Nazareth in that period. From the few written sources that there are, we know that in the 1st century CE, Nazareth was a small Jewish village."
The home consists of four rooms, a courtyard, a water cistern and a small camouflaged grotto, which is presumed to have been a hiding place for the occupants from the invading Roman army. The grotto could have concealed around six people for a few hours, Alexandre said. But the Romans did not attack the hamlet, which had little strategic value at the time.
Similar grottos have been found in other ancient Jewish communities in the Lower Galilee such as in Cana (modern Kafr Kanna), which did witness battles between Jews and Romans.
The home and previous discoveries of local tombs suggest that Nazareth was a community of approximately 50 houses that encompassed some 1.6 hectares, according to Alexandre. She is certain that the locals lived a simple lifestyle, because of the construction techniques that were used and the modest clay and chalk pottery that was found.
The scientists concluded that a Jewish family lived in the home because of chalk, which was used by Jews at that time to ensure the purity and preservation of food and water kept inside the vessels.
The archeological find in such close proximity to the Church of the Annunciation breaks new ground on understanding the time period of Jesus. According to the New Testament, Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived in Nazareth together with her husband, Joseph; it was there that she received the revelation from the Angel Gabriel that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God. The New Testament mentions that Jesus himself grew up in Nazareth.
Today, Christians believe the Church of the Annunciation is located where Mary and Joseph raised their family.
"It is highly probable that Jesus knew the Jewish occupants who lived in this house and in this community," Alexandre said.
So far, the archeologists have uncovered 85 square meters of the house, and they believe it could be much larger.
The built-up area surrounding the excavation site will probably yield further evidence of the house and the surrounding community, Alexandre said. The dwelling will now become a focal point of the new international Christian center being built next to the site.
Alexandre said limited space and high population density in Nazareth means it is unlikely that archeologists will be able to carry out any further evacuations in the area, leaving this dwelling to tell the story of what Jesus's boyhood home may have looked like.
AP contributed to this report.