Dwelling from Jesus’ time unearthed

NAZARETH, Israel — Days before Christmas, archaeologists 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 boy.

The Church of the Annunciation seen alongside the excavation site of the remains of the first dwelling in Nazareth

The Church of the Annunciation seen alongside the excavation site of the remains of the first dwelling in Nazareth

NAZARETH, Israel — Days before Christmas, archaeologists 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 boy.

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 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 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 said workers uncovered the first signs of the dwelling in the summer, but it became clear only this month that it was a structure from the era of Jesus.

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 centre, just meters away from the Basilica.

It is not clear how big the dwelling is — Alexandre’s team have uncovered about 85 square metres 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 vessels.

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., Alexandre said. The determination was made by comparing the findings to shards and remains found in other parts of the Galilee typical of that period, she said.

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 centre being constructed close to the site and funded by a French Roman Catholic group, said Marc Hodara of the Chemin Neuf Community overseeing construction.

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 looked like.

The discovery at “this time, this period, is very interesting, especially as a Christian,” Karam said. “For me it is a great gift.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The interchange at Highway 2 and McKenzie Road at the south end of Gasoline Alley is being redesigned with two roundabouts. Construction is expected to begin this month and finish in October. (Graphic from Red Deer County)
Roudabouts coming to McKenzie Road overpass at Gasoline Alley

Project expected to improve traffic flow at busy intersections

A federal strategy to preserve threatened trout could conflict with provincial coal leases in the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies. (Contributed photo by Jeff Lund).
Federal regulations could save Alberta’s bull trout by shutting down mining plans, says biologist

Ottawa’s new strategy identifies a 30-metre protected area along rivers and streams

(Contributed image)
Wolf Creek Public Schools will not participate in curriculum pilot

Central Alberta school jurisdiction joins others across Alberta

Erickson Gallardo of Canada's Toronto FC and his teammates celebrate after Andres Mosquera of Mexico's Leon scored an own goal during their Concacaf Champions League soccer match in Leon, Mexico, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRES/AP/Mario Armas
Toronto FC gets vaccine boost but injury list still an issue ahead of Leon rematch

Toronto FC gets vaccine boost but injury list still an issue ahead of Leon rematch

A Surete du Quebec police car is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Quebec man charged in partner’s death as domestic violence advocate sounds alarm

Quebec man charged in partner’s death as domestic violence advocate sounds alarm

The Canadian Forces flag flies outside office buildings in Ottawa, Tuesday March 9, 2021. The commander of Canada’s military police found himself under the microscope this afternoon as members of a parliamentary committee grilled him over how his officers deal with cases of sexual misconduct.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Top military police officer defends unit’s handling of sex misconduct cases

Top military police officer defends unit’s handling of sex misconduct cases

Children's backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. nbsp; THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Liberals set to dive deeply into child care in April 19 federal budget

Liberals set to dive deeply into child care in April 19 federal budget

Indigenous leaders, experts urge Ottawa to quickly pass UNDRIP bill before election

Indigenous leaders, experts urge Ottawa to quickly pass UNDRIP bill before election

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is seen during a news conference on Parliament hill in Ottawa, Tuesday April 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Opposition parties lay out priorities ahead of Liberal government budget next week

Opposition parties lay out priorities ahead of Liberal government budget next week

Sharis Carr, a nurse at the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Service Center in Clarksdale, Miss., holds a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine that was administered to seniors, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. A second COVID-19 vaccine is being investigated for possible links to blood clots, though the syndrome appears to be extremely rare. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rogelio V. Solis
Vaccine-induced blood clots under more scrutiny as Canada reports first case

Vaccine-induced blood clots under more scrutiny as Canada reports first case

Jennifer Lopez, left, and Alex Rodriguez take a selfie as they arrive at the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in January 2020. VAX Live: The Concert to Reunite the World will showcase Lopez. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)
Selena Gomez and J.Lo headline vax concert for poor nations

NEW YORK — Backed by an international concert hosted by Selena Gomez… Continue reading

Most Read