The Mary of Nazareth Center
Exploring First Century Homes in Nazareth
Location - Nazareth
Map Coordinates - 32.702663, 35.297346
Just next door to the very large and well-visited Church of the Annunciation is a hidden gem in the city of Nazareth, the International Mary of Nazareth Center. Late in 2009 the Israel Antiquities Authority announced that archaeologists had discovered a building in Nazareth dating from the time of Jesus. The interesting thing about this discovery is that this was not a cave but real constructed walls.
This is actually the fifth such discovery of a first-century home in Nazareth. According to the Antiquities Authority, the artifacts recovered from inside this building included fragments of pottery vessels from the Early Roman period, that is, the first and second centuries. There are two rooms here, an outdoor courtyard, and all of it was occupied during the time of Jesus.
Looking down into a 20-foot underground silo for storing food.
There is a very deep 20-foot underground silo, with several layers of chambers, and these were used for food storage. People in the ancient world used these silos to keep their food cool, thus minimizing spoilage. The people who used this pit would only have had a candle or a torch to light their way as they went up and down this hole using ropes and ladders.
The wall next to the silo is 3000 years old, dating back to the time of King David.
A Jewish Hiding Place?
This is another very interesting find at this site, and it has to do with a perfectly round hole. As you may know, in the first century the Jews were fed up with the Roman occupation of their country, and in 67 AD they took up arms against the Romans. As a result of this Jewish revolt, the Roman army, under the leadership of general Titus, destroyed the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. In fact, Jesus prophesied about this very invasion 37 years earlier. To travel on foot from Rome to Jerusalem Titus’ army would have to have gone through Galilee, and that’s exactly what the Roman soldiers did in 67 AD. On their way to Jerusalem, the Roman army left a path of destruction and bloodshed, and much of that devastation occurred in Galilee.
Was this a hiding place for the Jews?
This round hole was not outside the house, but inside. The lip of this hole indicates that a round stone was built to fit perfectly over the top of it. Some archeologists believe that this underground pit was prepared so that the entrance could be camouflaged. After studying similar excavations in other Galilean villages, some experts have determined that this underground room was constructed to be both a silo for storing food, and a hiding place, probably for a single Jewish family, in order to protect themselves during a sudden attack by the approaching Roman soldiers.
1900 years before Anne Frank wrote her diary about Jews hiding in a wall, or before Corrie Ten Boom wrote her WWII-era book – The Hiding place, it could be that the Jews of the first century were already building secret rooms to hide from their persecutors.
Was this pit ever used as a hiding place? We know that Roman soldiers swarmed through Galilee, so it may have been used for this purpose
Did Jesus know the people who lived here?
These ruins have us wondering about the possibility that Jesus was here at some time during His life. Because He lived very close to this site for about 27 years, the odds are very good that He knew the people that lived in this house - that He played with their children when He was a child - that He may have built things for this family as He practiced the trade that Joseph taught Him. Did He have a conversation or share a meal with this family? These are things that we will never know for sure, but they are things that most likely happen.