A British archaeologist claims he has identified the first century childhood home of Jesus. According to the archaeologist, an ancient text points to a first century stone and mortar structure hewn out of limestone in a hillside in Nazareth, northern Israel, as the house where Jesus lived as a child.
Reading University archaeologist Dr. Ken Dark, who dated the Jewish house to the early first century A.D., wrote in an article published in the highly-respected journal Biblical Archaeological Review, that an ancient pilgrim text, De Locus Sanctis, written in 670 A.D. by an Irish monk, Abbot Adomnan of Iona, provides key evidence identifying the house as Jesus’ childhood home.
Adomnan’s text was based on a reported pilgrimage made to Nazareth by the Frankish Bishop Arculf. It gives account of an ancient church “where once there was the house in which the Lord was nourished in his infancy.”
The text described the house where Mary and Joseph raised Jesus as located between two tombs built in the first century below a church near the Church of Annunciation.
Based on textual and archaeological evidence, Dark identified the church below which Jesus’ childhood home is located as the Sister Of Nazareth Convent in Nazareth.
It is believed that a church with two tombs in its crypt was once located in the site in the Byzantine era. The ruins of the building also become part of a church during the Crusades in the 12th century.
Evidence that the early church took great care of the site for several centuries indicates that it was venerated since early in church history as the location of an ancient structure of special significance.
Commenting on the great care lavished on the site in church history, Dark wrote in his article published in the journal Biblical Archaeological Review, that the tombs and the house were decorated with mosaics in the Byzantine era.
“Great efforts had been made to encompass the remains of this building. Both the tombs and the house were decorated with mosaics in the Byzantine period, suggesting that they were of special importance, and possibly venerated.”
According to Dark, the house has been identified as located beneath the Sisters of Nazareth Convent, near the Basilica of Annunciation in Nazareth, which Adomnan’s text mentions specifically.
“The other [church] stood nearby and was built near a vault that also contained a spring and the remains of two tombs. Between these two tombs was the house in which Jesus was raised. From this is derived the more recent name for the church that Adomnàn described.”
The house, cut into a limestone hillside, has several rooms and a stairway. One of the doors of the house and part of the house’s original chalk floor have survived.
Dark, an expert in first century and Christian archaeology, who has been studying the structure since 2006, said the house matches perfectly the home described in Adomnan’s 670 A.D. text. He wrote that although he has no proof that the structure was Jesus’ home as a child, there is “no good reason” to question the claim made in early church texts about the house.
“Was this the house where Jesus grew up? It is impossible to say on archaeological grounds. On the other hand, there is no good archaeological reason why such identification should be discounted.”
The site was first identified as a historically significant site in the 1880s and an excavation ordered after nuns accidentally discovered an ancient cistern at the site.
Later in 1936, a Jesuit priest Henri Senes, carried out further work on the site.
Dark and his team began excavation at the site in 2006, under the Nazareth Archaeological Project. Since 2006, broken cooking pots, a spindle whorl and other limestone artifacts have been found at the site, according to the Daily Mail. The artifacts suggest that the house had been occupied by a Jewish family.
This is not the first time that archaeologists have attempted to find the house in which Jesus was raised. In 2009, archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority excavated a first century Jewish home which they thought might have been the house in which Jesus was raised.