The Nazareth Ruins
Exploring the Cave Homes of Nazareth.
This site is always part of our live Octagon Tour.
Location - Nazareth
Map Coordinates - 32.702104, 35.297978
Archeologists have determined that Nazareth was settled sometime between 900 and 600 BC. This is the town where Jesus spent most of his life. We don’t know exactly how many years He lived here, because we don’t know how old he was when He returned from Egypt. But in any case, most of His childhood, and all of His early life was spent here. And the homes that you are going to enter on this tour are, more than likely, homes that Jesus Himself was in at some time during His life.
A Nazareth cave home.
The History of Mary.
In the Bible we don’t have any history of Mary prior to the time that she was a young teenager. But we have reason to believe that she did not spend her childhood here. From the Protoevangelium of James here is what we learn.
Mary as a child, with her mother Saint Anne.
Mary lived in Jerusalem until she was 12 years old. Her parents, Anne and Joachim, had probably already died by this time in the city of Jerusalem. Mary then moved to Nazareth and lived for a few years in a home that is now in the crypt of the Church of the Annunciation. During these years, Joseph, to whom she was not fully married, was a craftsman or a carpenter in Sepphoris, which is a 45-minute walk from here. When Mary was about 15 years old, she received the annunciation from the Archangel Gabriel, that she would be the mother of the Son of God.
A Description of the Cave Homes.
As you enter these ruins, you quickly learn that many of the homes in the ancient land of Israel backed up to caves. And this was good, because a cave provided an inexpensive, secure and cool dwelling for both people and animals.
These caves were not very tall, and many times a normal-sized adult could not stand up in one. But still it was nice to have a cave in your home, regardless of the size. The fact that these are short rooms suggests that they were probably not the main part of the house, but rather used as secondary or storage rooms, or as stables. The pillars that you see in these caves were added later to provide support for the soft limestone ceilings.
One of these caves has an oven. This means that for at least one or more families this section of the house was a dwelling part, and that they cooked in there. It wasn’t a very tall room, and so the adults probably had to stoop every time they were in there.
An ancient oven in one of the caves.
The Anchor Holes.
In one particular cave you see a stone column that has two anchor holes carved into the walls. What were these for? Well, if this was a prison, these anchor holes would have been used to chain the prisoners to the wall so that they couldn’t escape. But this wasn’t a prison, and so these holes were probably used for the purpose of securing animals, such as donkeys, goats, or sheep.
One of the anchor holes in the wall of the cave.
One particular cave is very close to the Grotto of the Annunciation. This special cave has a doorway in the back wall that leads down into the grotto of the Annunciation, which is the traditional home of Mary, and the place where Jesus was conceived. When visiting the Grotto of the Annunciation, you can clearly see this staircase. Well, that staircase didn’t exist in Mary’s time. It was added many centuries later.
Was Jesus ever in these homes?
I believe that Jesus was in one or more of these caves at some point during his life. You see, Jesus lived here for about 27 years. There probably wasn’t anywhere that He hadn’t been. And this is one of the most unique things about visiting the Holy Land - standing where Jesus stood, where He taught, and where He performed his miracles.