Daily Israel Report

1st-Time Discovery of 2nd-Temple Dwelling in Nazareth

The remains of a dwelling from the last days of the Second Temple period have been uncovered in the heart of the Israeli Arab city of Nazareth.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 12/22/2009, 12:12 PM / Last Update: 12/22/2009, 2:09 PM

The remains of a dwelling from the last days of the Second Temple have been uncovered in the heart of the city of Nazareth. The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) revealed the remains of the ancient residential area in the northern Israeli Arab city for the first time to reporters on Monday.

The structure was exposed during a small-scale excavation that was carried out on a nearby church property in light of municipal plans to build in the area.
The pit may have been prepared by local Jews to protect themselves during the Great Revolt against the Romans in 67 CE.

Archaeologists uncovered in the excavation a large broad wall dating to the Mamluk period (15th century CE) that was built on top of, and “utilizing” the walls of, an ancient building. This earlier building consisted of two rooms and a courtyard which contained a rock-hewn cistern for rainwater. Few artifacts were recovered from inside the building, most of which included fragments of pottery vessels from the early Roman period (1st and 2nd centuries CE).

Proof of a Jewish presence was found in several fragments of chalk (stone) vessels that were discovered. Such vessels were only used by Jews during this period, because such vessels were not susceptible to becoming ritually impure.

A hewn pit, whose entrance was apparently camouflaged, was also exposed. According to IAA exacavation director Yardenna Alexandre, the pit may have been prepared by the local Jews “to protect themselves during the Great Revolt against the Romans in 67 CE.”

The nearby church itself was built in 1969 on the spot the Catholic faith identifies with the house of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and rests on the remains of three earlier churches, the oldest of which is ascribed to the Byzantine period (4th century CE).

“The building that we found is small and modest and it is most likely typical of the dwellings in Nazareth in that period,” observed Alexandre. “From the few written sources that exist, we know that in the first century CE, Nazareth was a small Jewish village located inside a valley. Up to now, a number of tombs... were found in Nazareth, but no settlement remains have been discovered that were attributed to this period.”

The “Association Mary of Nazareth” intends to conserve and present the remains of the newly discovered house inside the building planned for the International Marian Center of Nazareth, the city where Jesus and his family lived during the period in which the uncovered dwelling stood.