It’s an early Christmas present — from the birthplace of Christianity.
Israeli archaeologists this week, a few days before Christmas, announced that they had for the first time discovered the remains of a house in Nazareth that dates back 2,000 years, to the time of Jesus.
Jesus grew up in the city in northern Israel.
The discovery “sheds light on the way of life at the time of Jesus,” in the early Roman Period, the Israel Antiquities Authority said.
“The building that we found is small and modest, and it is most likely typical of the dwellings in Nazareth in that period,” said Yardenna Alexendre, who directed the excavation near the Church of the Assumption that exposed the walls of the first-century house.
“It tells us there were few luxuries, no imports. It would have been a simple, basic way of life.
“Until now, a number of tombs from the time of Jesus were found in Nazareth; however no settlement remains had been discovered that were attributed to this period,” she said.
Nazareth, now Israel’s largest Arab city, was a “small hamlet” during Jesus’ time, Alexandre said.
The house was unearthed beneath a playground as part of a dig in advance of the construction of the International Marian Center of Nazareth, which will illustrate the life of Mary, Jesus’ mother. The house’s remains — two rooms, a courtyard and rock-hewn cistern that collected rainwater — will be displayed in the Center,
Christian pilgrims, who usually flock to Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem, during the week of Christmas, will now have reason to head north.
“They say if the people do not speak, the stones will speak,” said Father Jack Karam of the nearby Basilica of the Annunciation, where, according to Christian tradition, an angel spoke to Mary.