Monday, December 28

A Jesus Era house excavated in Nazareth

Now here’s an interesting item which caught my eye. I knew the history of Jesus of Nazareth where he grew up, but my mental image of Nazareth was always what was illustrated in Nativity Plays, Bible books, paintings and such like. Very clean, idealised village which would not be out of place in modern day Britain. Here’s an example:

here’s another painting, Nazareth by William Gale.

Anyway, you get the idea. But then this announcement popped up. I quote:

The remains of a small house that can be dated back to the time of Jesus have been found in the past days during excavation works in progress in Nazareth, guided by a team of Israeli archaeologists. According to the scientists, this is the first house from that era ever uncovered.  "The building that we found is small and modest and it is most likely typical of the dwellings in Nazareth in that period," the archaeologist added, suggesting that "Jesus and his childhood friends may have known this house".

Click on this site and this to see 2 photographs of the currently excavated site which shows the foundations of the house and the walls. The hamlet, unlike what has been portrayed in the paintings and books, was a dirt poor tiny hamlet of not more than 50 families. Interestingly enough, the archaeologists have found a water harvesting system on the roof. What a change and as the LA Times says:

…not far from the spot where the Archangel Gabriel is said to have revealed to Mary that she would give birth to the boy. Today the ornate Basilica of the Annunciation marks that spot, and Nazareth is the largest Arab city in northern Israel, with about 65,000 residents. Muslims now outnumber Christians 2 to 1 in the noisy, crowded city. The archaeological find shows how different it was 2,000 years ago: Christianity and Islam did not yet exist; the Jewish Temple stood in Jerusalem; and tiny Nazareth was near a battleground between Roman rulers and Jewish guerrillas….

There is obviously no Jewish presence now, the number of Christians is dropping precipitously in Palestine and the Jewish state is busy having fun with the Muslims. The archaeologists also found a hidden entrance to a grotto which could have been used by the Jews to escape from the Romans. And Palestine now has underground tunnels to smuggle people and goods in and out of Palestine. In certain cases, not much has changed now has it? And what also surprised me was that nobody has done any politicking on this yet as archaeology in the holy land is inextricably linked with politics down history.

But what has changed is the image of Nazareth in my mind. Instead of the bucolic, green and peaceful town that was imprinted in my mind, it has now converted into a parched, drought ridden, desperately poor, quite dirty, fearful tiny little village of no importance back then. Merry Christmas everybody.

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