Ancient House Could Shed Light on Jesus' Era

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NAZARETH, Israel - Archaeologists in Nazareth have found the remains of a house that dates back to the time of Jesus Christ.

Most people only know about the life of Jesus from what they read in the Bible. But archaeologist Yardena Alexandre says Monday's discovery sheds much more light on how people lived their every day lives in the Galilee town.

"What we can learn is a little bit about the lifestyle. I would say that certainly the remains that we have are very simple and it reflects the simple houses that must have existed in the small village of Nazareth," Alexandre said.

The house consisted of interconnected rooms, a courtyard and water cistern. There appear to be no luxuries or imported goods. Remains of pottery and vessels found at the site also confirmed the Jewish character of the city.

There were probably about 50 homes in Nazareth at the time of Jesus. Some experts say because the village was so small it's likely that Jesus and boys his age knew the home and played in it.

Located at the heart of ancient Nazareth, the remains of the house are just across the street from another landmark - The Basilica of the Annunciation. Catholic tradition says it was the site where Mary lived when she was visited by the angel Gabriel telling her she would bear a child - the Messiah.

Also at the site is a pit that Alexandre believes was dug out of rock as a hiding place.

"I think it was excavated by the people who were living in this house for the purpose of hiding from the Roman army at the time of the Great Revolt," Alexandre said. "We're talking now about 67 CE. This is the great Jewish revolt against the Romans."

All of this was discovered because of plans for a new Catholic center. Throughout Israel, archaeologists go to a site before construction to look for history.

"But these salvage excavations carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority are terribly important because you don't know what to expect," Alexandre explained. "Very often you come up with very important finds, which can tell us about life in the ancient days."

Center developer Marc Hodara said he wants to preserve the remains.

"I think it's a gift for Christmas because we are for Christmas," he said. "It's a gift for the center also because many people would like to see the place.

Today Nazareth is a bustling city of some 75,000 residents. Once a predominantly Christian city, it is now more than half Muslim. But even after 2,000 years, the city's fame still comes from a Jewish carpenter who grew up there.

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Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

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