A home built into a rocky hillside in Nazareth, Jesus' hometown, was regarded as the place where Jesus was brought up by Mary and Joseph.K.R. Dark (copyright) 2010

A British archaeologist uncovered a structure he believes to be the childhood home of Jesus, with thanks to the writings of an Irish monk.

According to Dr. Ken Dark, an archaeologist with Reading University, the ancient pilgrim text “De Locus Sanctis, written in 670 AD by Irish monk Abbot Adomnan of Iona, set out key evidence identifying the house at Jesus’ first home. The text outlines that a first century stone and mortar structure hewn into the limestone hillside in Nazareth could have been the residence of Mary and Joseph.

K.R.Dark copyright 2010

K.R.Dark copyright 2010

In an article written for “Biblical Archaeological Review” in March 2015, Dark explains the basis for his claim. The ancient text from the monk Adomnan is written about a report given by Frankish Bishop Arculf on his pilgrimage to Nazareth. In this text, a reference is made to an ancient church “where once there was a house in which the Lord was nourished in his infancy.” The report states the house was said to exist underneath the church and between two tombs.

The Sisters of Nazareth Convent was identified as a possible location for the description given in this text as there is evidence of a large Byzantine church with a spring and two tombs in its crypt. The house also lies between these two crypts as described by the monk.

Dark argues that the fact the ruins of the house were incorporated into the building of churches and tombs shows that it is a place of some significance. During the Byzantine era and again during the Crusades in the 12th century, Dark explains that ruins of significance, that were believed to need protection, were often incorporated into religious structures.

Sisters of Nazareth Convent. Photo by: Tele2001/Wiki Commons.

Sisters of Nazareth Convent. Photo by: Tele2001/Wiki Commons.

The house was first regarded as significant when sisters of the convent happened upon an ancient cistern in the 1880s. Excavation was immediately ordered and work has continued on the building since. Dr. Dark, a specialist in first century and Christian archaeology, began his work on the area in 2006 and his team and he have since discovered broken cooking pots, a spindle whorl and limestone artifacts. Parts of the original chalk floor of the house still remain, as does one of the doorways. The house was hewn into the limestone hillside and contained a series of room and a staircase.

Writing in the Biblical Archaeological Review, Dark says ‘Great efforts had been made to encompass the remains of this building. Both the tombs and the house were decorated with mosaics in the Byzantine period, suggesting that they were of special importance, and possibly venerated.”

Dark admits, however, that he has no proof for this claim and while the ancient pilgrim text points in the right direction, and gives “good reason” to believe it is the right place, it can not be certain.

“Was this the house where Jesus grew up? It is impossible to say on archaeological grounds. On the other hand, there is no good archaeological reason why such an identification should be discounted.”

*Originally published in 2015