December 22, 2009

Remains Of Jesus-Era Home Found In Nazareth

Israeli archaeologists have uncovered a home dating back to the time of Jesus in the town of Nazareth where he is said to have spent the better part of his life.

The discovery has been made close to the spot millions believe was the home of his mother, Mary.

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), their discovery reveals a building that consisted of two rooms and a courtyard in which there was a rock-hewn cistern into which rainwater was conveyed.

Archaeologist Yardena Alexandre, head of the excavation, says they have uncovered about 900 square feet of the home.

Archaeologists also found a camouflaged entry way into a grotto, which Alexandre believes was used by Jews to hide from Roman soldiers who were battling Jewish rebels for control of the area.

The grotto could have hidden around six people for a few hours, she said.

Artifacts recovered were few and mostly included fragments of pottery vessels from the Early Roman period

The remains were found near the Basilica of the Annunciation, built on the ruins of three earlier churches on the site where Christians believe Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that she would give birth to Jesus.

However, archaeologists did not draw any direct link between the Nazareth dwelling and Jesus.

These findings show how different life was 2000 years ago: There were no such thing as Christians or Muslims, the Jewish Temple stood in Jerusalem and tiny Nazareth stood near a battleground between Roman rulers and Jewish guerrillas.

"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 light on the way of life at the time of Jesus," Alexandre said.

He added that the dwelling appeared to have sheltered a "simple Jewish family" based on clay and chalk shards found at the site.

"The building that we found is small and modest, and it is most likely typical of the dwellings in Nazareth in that period," she says.

The find has been announced with festive good timing.

The only other artifacts from the time of Jesus found in the Nazareth area are ancient burial caves that provided a rough idea of the village's population at the time, Alexandre said.

The dwelling will become part of a new international Christian center being built close to the site and funded by a French Roman Catholic group, said Marc Hodara of the Chemin Neuf Community overseeing construction.

Nazareth is the largest Arab city in northern Israel, with about 65,000 residents. Muslims now outnumber Christians two to one in the noisy, crowded city.


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