Excavation and Research
at the Nazareth Village Farm
For more than a decade, the University of the Holy Land's Center for the Study of Early Christianity (CSEC) has labored to lay the academic foundation for the construction of a first-century Galilean village based upon archaeology and early Christian and Jewish sources.
Such a ‘model village’ would provide a sort of time capsule into which the contemporary visitor might step to encounter more effectively the message of Jesus in its original setting. At Nazareth Village, this educational vision is being realized.
The Nazareth Farm Excavation
On a visit to Nazareth Hospital in November 1996, CSEC’s director Stephen Pfann identified an ancient winepress associated with agricultural terraces on the hospital grounds and the adjacent land. Potsherds found on the surface of the terraces dated from various periods beginning with the early-to-late Roman Period.
A survey of the area was conducted in February 1997 by CSEC’s archaeological staff. Four seasons of excavation, licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority and under the joint direction of Ross Voss and S. Pfann, have been carried out by CSEC, with the help of students and local volunteers. These excavations have confirmed the land to be a complete Roman Period terrace farm with a winepress, watchtowers, olive crushing stones, irrigation systems, and an ancient quarry, and have illuminated previously unknown aspects of terrace farming in the Galilee.
The character of the site indicates that the valley and its slopes likely comprised the property of a single family’s farm, which produced a variety of crops. Most of the extent of the original farm has been preserved. This farm remains the most important, and perhaps the only witness to the life and livelihood of the ancient Nazarenes.
The Nazareth Village
Dr. Nakhle Bishara, Medical Director of Nazareth Hospital, had long hoped to build a visitors’ center in Nazareth focusing on the life of Jesus. In light of the archaeological profile of the site, Dr. Bishara invited CSEC to incorporate its vision for an authentic first-century ‘model village’ with the proposed visitors’ center. CSEC was thus contracted to be the academic consultants for the project and to provide the foundational research necessary for recreating a picture of Galilean town life in the first century C.E. Hence the Nazareth Village farm and visitors’ center, developed under the direction of Michael Hostetler, was born.
The Nazareth Village is the only enterprise of its kind dedicated to illuminating the life of Jesus through an authentically constructed first-century town and restored ancient farm. It is in this venue that the story of Jesus’ childhood, ministry, and teaching are retold with elements of everyday life re-enacted.
To date, four major avenues of daily life have been explored: the nature of first-century Nazareth, the house as a living space, household furnishings, and the synagogue. The methodological basis of this research is built upon primary literary and archaeological sources, as well as secondary ethnographic and anthropological studies. A four-stepped A, B, C, D rating system is applied to all elements as to their certainty of being historically accurate.