Israel: First Jesus-Era House Found in Nazareth
Monday, December 21, 2009
By Diaa Hadid, Associated Press
Nazareth, Israel (AP) - Days before Christmas, archeologists on Monday unveiled
what they said were the remains of the first dwelling in Nazareth that can be
dated back to the time of Jesus -- a find that could shed new light on what the
hamlet was like during the period the New Testament says Jesus lived there as a
The dwelling and older discoveries of nearby tombs in burial caves suggest that
Nazareth was an out-of-the-way hamlet of around 50 houses on a patch of about
four acres (1.6 hectares). It was evidently populated by Jews of modest means
who kept camouflaged grottos to hide from Roman invaders, said archaeologist
Yardena Alexandre, excavations director at the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Based on clay and chalk shards found at the site, the dwelling appeared to house
a "simple Jewish family," Alexandre added, as workers at the site carefully
chipped away at mud with small pickaxes to reveal stone walls.
Nazareth holds a cherished place in Christianity. It is believed to be the town
where Christian tradition says Jesus grew up and where an angel told Mary she
would bear the child of God.
"This may well have been a place that Jesus and his contemporaries were familiar
with," Alexandre said. A young Jesus may have played around the house with his
cousins and friends, she said. "It's a logical suggestion."
The discovery so close to Christmas has pleased local Christians.
"They say if the people do not speak, the stones will speak," said a smiling
Father Jack Karam of the nearby Basilica of the Annunciation, the site where
Christian tradition says Mary received the angel's word.
Alexandre's team found remains of a wall, a hideout, a courtyard and a water
system that appeared to collect water from the roof and supply it to the home.
The discovery was made when builders dug up the courtyard of a former convent to
make room for a new Christian center, just yards (meters) away from the
It is not clear how big the dwelling is -- Alexandre's team have uncovered about
900 square feet (85 square meters) of the house, but it may have been for an
extended family and could be much larger, she said.
Alexandre said her team also found a camouflaged entry way into a grotto, which
she believes was used by Jews at the time to hide from Roman soldiers who were
battling Jewish rebels at the time for control of the area.
The grotto would have hid around six people for a few hours, she said.
However, Roman soldiers did not end up battling Nazareth's Jews because the
hamlet had little strategic value at the time. The Roman army was more
interested in larger towns and strategic hilltop communities, she said.
Alexandre said similar camouflaged grottos were found in other ancient Jewish
communities of the lower Galilee such as the nearby Biblical village of Cana,
which did witness battle between Jews and Romans.
At the site, Alexandre told reporters that archaeologists also found clay and
chalk vessels which were likely used by Galilean Jews of the time. The
scientists concluded a Jewish family lived there because of the chalk, which was
used by Jews at the time to ensure the purity of the food and water kept inside
The shards also date back to the time of Jesus, which includes the late
Hellenic, early Roman period that ranges from around 100 B.C. to 100 A.D.,
The absence of any remains of glass vessels or imported products suggested the
family who lived in the dwelling were "simple," but Alexandre said the remains
did not indicate whether they were traders or farmers.
The only other artifacts that archeologists have found in the Nazareth area from
the time of Jesus are ancient burial caves outside the hamlet, providing a rough
idea of the village's population at the time, Alexandre said.
Work is now taking place to clear newer ruins built above the dwelling, which
will be preserved. The dwelling will become a part of a new international
Christian center being constructed close to the site and funded by a French
Roman Catholic group, said Marc Hodara of the Chemin Neuf Community overseeing
Alexandre said limited space and population density in Nazareth means it is
unlikely that archeologists can carry out any further excavations in the area,
leaving this dwelling to tell the story of what Jesus' boyhood home may have
The discovery at "this time, this period, is very interesting, especially as a
Christian," Karam said. "For me it is a great gift."
(I got this from a person that enjoys history and especially things "archeological")