ABC's Simon McGregor-Wood reports from Jerusalem:
Just a few days before millions of Christians worldwide celebrate Christmas, Israeli archaeologists say they have discovered the first remains of a house in the town of Nazareth dating from the time of Jesus.
According to the New Testament Jesus grew up in Nazareth, which at the time was a small village of no more than 50 homes. Similar buildings have been uncovered elsewhere in the surrounding Galilee region but never in Jesus’ home town itself.
Yardena Alexandre, head of the team that discovered the remains of the house told ABC News Monday, “This would have been a small house with several rooms and a courtyard. Since it was built on a hillside it may have been terraced and had more than one level.”
The remains were found during building work on a museum. They include a wall, a hideout and a cistern. Archaeologists also found clay and chalk pots used by Jews in the area at the time. From that the team deduced the home belonged to what they referred to as a “simple Jewish family.”
“This is an important find because it is the first dwelling place from the early Roman period found in Nazareth itself. It helps give us a clearer picture of what the place was like when Jesus was alive” Alexandre said.
Today Nazareth is a bustling city and a centre of Christian pilgrimage. The humble remains lie in the center of the city near the famous Church of the Annunciation. The place where according to Christian tradition, the angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary she would give birth to Jesus.
The archaeologists believe that since Nazareth at the time was such a small place, Jesus and his friends would probably have known the newly uncovered house.
The remains will be preserved as an exhibit in the new museum once it is completed.