A Residential Building from the Time of Jesus

imageThe remains of a building dating to the Early Roman period (First and Second centuries CE) were discovered in an archaeological excavation of the Israel Antiquities Authority near the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. It is not clear how big the dwelling is, the archaeologists have uncovered about 900 square feet (85 square meters) of it, but it may have been used by an extended family and could be much larger.

An archaeological excavation recently conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority has revealed new information about ancient Nazareth from the time of Jesus. Remains of a dwelling that date to the Early Roman period (First and Second centuries CE) were discovered for the first time in an archaeological excavation, which was carried out prior to the construction of the “International Marian Center of Nazareth” by the Association Mary of Nazareth, next to the Church of the Annunciation.

According to the New Testament, Mary, mother of Jesus, lived in Nazareth together with her husband Joseph. It was there that she received the revelation by 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.

imageIn 1969 the Church of the Annunciation was erected on the spot that is identified with the house of Mary. It was built atop the remains of three earlier churches, the oldest of which dating to the Byzantine period (Fourth century CE). In light of the new plans to build there, the Israel Antiquities Authority, the pre-eminent organization in the fields of Biblical and Israeli archaeology, recently undertook a small archaeological excavation close to the church, which resulted in the exposure of the residential structure.

According to Yardenna Alexandre, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “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. 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, we know that in the First century CE Nazareth was a small Jewish village, located inside a valley. Until now only a number of tombs from the time of Jesus were found in Nazareth; however, no settlement remains have been discovered that are attributed to this period”.

imageIn the excavation, a large broad wall dating to the Mamluk period (Fifteenth century CE) that was constructed on top of and “utilized” the walls of an earlier period building was exposed. This earlier building consisted of two rooms and a courtyard with a rock-hewn water cistern. The artifacts recovered from inside the building were few and included fragments of pottery vessels from the Early Roman period (First and Second centuries CE). In addition, several fragments of chalk vessels were found. Such vessels were used only by Jews during this period because they were not susceptible to becoming ritually unclean.

Another hewn pit, whose entrance was apparently camouflaged, was excavated and a few pottery shards from the Early Roman period were found inside it. “Based on other excavations that I conducted in other villages in the region, this pit was probably hewn as part of the preparations by the Jews to protect themselves during the Great Revolt against the Romans in 67 CE” said archaeologist Yardenna Alexandre.

In several of the archaeological excavations that were carried out over the years in this crowded city, a number of burial caves dating to the Early Roman period were exposed that are situated close to the inhabited area. The modern Church of the Annunciation was constructed in the heart of Nazareth, on top of the Crusader Church of the Annunciation built on top of the ruins of a church from the Byzantine period. In the center of these churches is a cave that was already ascribed in antiquity to the house of Jesus’ family. Numerous storage pits and cisterns, some of which date to the Early Roman period, were found in the compound of the Church of the Annunciation.

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