Nazareth Travel Blog› entry 7 of 15 › view all entries
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).
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." Emmett claims that archaeological excavations in the vicinity of the present-day Basilica of the Annunciation and St.
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).
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.” 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).
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.