Nazareth Travel Blog

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Nazareth is the capital and largest city in the North District of Israel. It also serves as an Arab capital for Israel's Arab citizens who make up the vast majority of the population there. In the New Testament, the city is described as the childhood home of Jesus, and as such is a center of Christian pilgrimage, with many shrines commemorating biblical associations.


Earliest history & archaeological evidence


Archaeological research has revealed a funerary and cult center at Kfar HaHoresh, about two miles (3 km) from Nazareth, dating back roughly 9000 years (to what is known as the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B era).

[9] The remains of some 65 individuals were found, buried under huge horizontal headstone structures, some of which consisted of up to 3 tons of locally-produced white plaster. Decorated human skulls uncovered there have led archaeologists to believe that Kfar HaHoresh was a major cult centre in that remote era.[10]


Chad Emmet authored a sociological study on modern Nazareth entitled "Beyond the Basilica: Christians and Muslims in Nazareth." This book attempts to "better understand how Christians and Muslims have managed to live together for centuries in relative peace in a region known for its ethnic and religious conflicts, and to determine to what degree they have remained segregated in religious-based quarters."[11] Emmett claims that archaeological excavations in the vicinity of the present-day Basilica of the Annunciation and St.

Joseph have revealed pottery dating from the Middle Bronze Age (2200 to 1500 BC) and ceramics, silos and grinding mills from the Iron Age (1500 to 586 BC).However, excavations conducted prior to 1931 in the Franciscan venerated area revealed "no trace of a Greek or Roman settlement" there, and according to studies written between 1955 and 1990, no archaeological evidence from Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Hellenistic or Early Roman times have been found. Bagatti, the principal archaeologist at the venerated sites in Nazareth, unearthed quantities of later Roman and Byzantine artefacts,attesting to unambiguous human presence there from the 2nd century AD onward.


Emmett also claims that "homes and tombs built of stone masonry with back rooms of natural or rock-hewn caves were also found that date to the Roman era (63 BC to 324 AD).

west bank wall
"However, this familiar claim that the Nazarenes were troglodytes (cave dwellers) is impossible, for "the caves of Galilee are wet or damp from December to May, and can only be used during the summer and autumn."


Finally, Emmett claims that "In light of the archaeological data, there is speculation that Nazareth's first inhabitants could have been Canaanites, then Israelites and Galilean Jews."Indeed, the Bronze-Iron Age inhabitants must have been Canaanites (pre-Israelite inhabitants of the land), but lack of archaeological evidence from Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Hellenistic or Early Roman times (see above), at least in the major excavations between 1955 and 1990, shows that Israelite presence in the basin is unsubstantiated.


James Strange, an American archaeologist, notes that “Nazareth is not mentioned in ancient Jewish sources earlier than the third century AD. This likely reflects its lack of prominence both in Galilee and in Judaea.”[18] Strange first estimates Nazareth’s population at the time of Christ to be “roughly 1,600 to 2,000 people”, and in a subsequent publication at “a maximum of about 480.” Some have argued that the absence of textual references to Nazareth in the Old Testament and the Talmud, as well as the works of Josephus, suggest that a town called 'Nazareth' did not exist in Jesus' day.


Many writers suppose that ancient Nazareth was built on the hillside, as required by scripture: [And they led Jesus] "to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong" (Gospel of Luke 4:29).

However, the hill in question (the Nebi Sa'in) is far too steep for ancient dwellings and averages a 14% grade in the venerated area. Bagatti has shown that this area was, however, clearly used for tombs and agricultural work in the Bronze and Iron Ages, as well as in later Roman times.



In the mid-1990s, shopkeeper Elias Shama discovered tunnels under his shop near Mary’s Well in Nazareth. The tunnels were eventually recognized as a hypocaust (a space below the floor into which warm air was pumped) for a bathhouse. The surrounding site was excavated in 1997-98 by Y. Alexandre, and the archaeological remains exposed were ascertained to date from the Roman, Crusader, Mamluk and Ottoman periods.


A tablet currently at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, dating to 50 AD, was sent from Nazareth to Paris in 1878.

It contains an inscription known as the "Ordinance of Caesar" that outlines the penalty of death for those who violate tombs or graves. However, it is suspected that this inscription came to Nazareth from somewhere else (possibly Sepphoris). Bagatti writes: “we are not certain that it was found in Nazareth, even though it came from Nazareth to Paris. At Nazareth there lived various vendors of antiquities who got ancient material from several places.” C. Kopp is more definite: "It must be accepted with certainty that [the Ordinance of Caesar]… was brought to the Nazareth market by outside merchants."Jack Finegan describes additional archaeological evidence related to settlement in the Nazareth basin during the Bronze and Iron Ages, and adds that "Nazareth was a strongly Jewish settlement in the Roman period."The critical question now under scholarly debate is when in the Roman period Nazareth came into existence, that is, whether settlement there began before or after 70 AD (the First Jewish War).

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west bank wall
west bank wall
orphanage in the west bank
orphanage in the west bank
photo by: Isoinspira