(Helen Bond) A week or so ago we welcomed Dr Ken Dark from the University of Reading to Edinburgh. Ken is an archaeologist with a great deal of experience in all things to do with the Roman Empire, and we were particularly interested to hear of his experiences in mapping the area around Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. The two extended lectures were extremely lively and we all learnt a great deal from them. I was particularly struck by the difference in archaeology between Romanized Sepphoris and Nazareth; it was also news to me that there was no road between Nazareth and Sepphoris – clearly this puts some question marks over reconstructions that have Jesus continually making his way over to the city. By way of contrast, there was a good road between Nazareth (which Ken portrayed as a small Jewish regional town rather than a hamlet) and the larger and more Romanized towns around the the Sea of Galilee.
Sumaries of the two lecturesare posted below.
Archaeology of Roman-Period Nazareth
Recent work by the Nazareth Archaeological Project (established in 2004) is transforming our understanding of first-century Nazareth and its hinterland, by applying modern archaeological methods and theory to its study for this first time. In Nahal Zippori, the broad valley between Nazareth and Sepphoris, survey has revealed a pattern of many small agricultural settlements, probably established at, or just before, the start of the Roman period. Those closer to Nazareth seem to have used only artefacts produced in what are known to have been Jewish contexts, but those closer to Sepphoris used a much wider range of material, including imported goods. This, along with other evidence, strongly suggests that a Roman-period cultural boundary existed between communities nearer Sepphoris and those nearer Nazareth, casting doubt on many recent interpretations of the relationship between the two centres. Turning to Nazareth itself, a reinvestigation of the archaeological site below the present Sisters of Nazareth convent, just across the street from the Church of the Annunciation, has demonstrated a long sequence of activity from the Roman period onward. This begins with an exceptionally well-preserved domestic building, probably a ‘courtyard house’, dating to the first century. The structure was disused within that century, and burials, including an almost-complete kokhim tomb of mid- to late- first-century form, dug in its immediate vicinity. Later, the site was used for the largest Byzantine church yet identified in Nazareth, with the earlier house and tombs contained and venerated in its crypt. The church may well be the ‘lost’ Church of the Nutrition, referred to in the seventh-century Insular Latin text De Locis Sanctis.
K.R.Dark ‘The Sisters of Nazareth site and the archaeology of Early Roman period Nazareth’ The Antiquaries Journal 92, 2012, 1-28.
K.R.Dark ‘The Byzantine and Crusader Church of the Nutrition in Nazareth rediscovered’ Palestine Exploration Quarterly 144.3, 2012, 164-184.
K.R.Dark ‘The Roman-Period and Byzantine Landscape between Sepphoris and Nazareth’ Palestine Exploration Quarterly 140.2, 2008, 87-102.
Dalmanutha Discovered? First-Century Fishing, Farming and Urbanization around the Sea of Galilee
While there has been much archaeological work on Roman-period and Byzantine settlement around the Sea of Galilee, little synthesis of this has taken place. Both material and written evidence suggest a distinctive economic system, in which local communities developed a specialised fishing ‘industry’ alongside agricultural production, but this has seldom been studied in its own right. Indeed, the valley of Ginosar, which has the best farmland around the ‘sea’, has been largely neglected by archaeologists, except for the urban site to its extreme south-east identified by Franciscan scholars as Magdala, and the famous first-century ship discovered on its shoreline. A new research project is synthesising existing data and using air- and satellite-photography to re-examine the area, combined with the first extensive archaeological survey of the Ginosar valley. The latter has identified a very large, but previously-unrecognised, Late Hellenistic, Roman-period, and later, settlement between the modern town of Migdal (on the western side of the valley) and the coast, just south of Kibbutz Ginosar. It is hard to imagine that a Roman-period coastal community of this size is nowhere mentioned in textual sources, and the site might be identified with one of the unlocated toponyms known from the Bible, perhaps the Dalmanutha of Mark 8:10.
K.R.Dark (forthcoming in 2013) ‘Archaeological Evidence for a Previously Unrecognised Town near the Sea of Galilee’ Palestine Exploration Quarterly 141.3