2,300-year-old rural town uncovered in Israel
Excavations on the outskirts of Jerusalem have revealed the remains of an ancient rural village that dates back to the Second Temple period, which lasted between 530 BC and 70 AD, and refers to the period in which the Jewish temple stood on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount following the destruction of the First Temple.
The ancient town was discovered during a salvage excavation ahead of a construction project to install a 35-kilometre gas pipeline. It is located on a ridge with a clear view of the surrounding countryside near the legendary Burma Road, a route that allowed supplies and food to flow into Jerusalem during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
The finding of the old town includes the discovery of narrow alleys and a few single-family stone houses, each containing several rooms and an open courtyard. The archaeologists also found dozens of coins, cooking pots, milling tools and jars for storing oil and wine.
Irina Zilberbod, the excavation director for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said that: "The rooms generally served as residential and storage rooms, while domestic tasks were carried out in the courtyards." It is believed that the people inhabiting the region cultivated orchards and vineyards for a living.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the village hit its peak during the 3 rd century BC, when Judea was under the control of the Seleucid monarchy after the breakup of Alexander the Great's empire. The Seleucid Empire was a Hellenistic state ruled by the Seleucid dynasty, which came to encompass Babylonia, central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Kuwait, Persia, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and northwest parts of India.
Residents seem to have abandoned the town at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty — when Herod the Great came into power in 37 BC. Archaeologist Yuval Baruch explained that this may be related to “Herod's massive building projects in Jerusalem, particularly the construction of the Temple Mount, and the mass migration of villagers to the capital to work on these projects."
The Second Temple period ended with the first Jewish-Roman War and the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
This incredible historic find provides us a glimpse into the lifestyle of everyday Jews just a half-century prior to Jesus' birth. One can surmise that small villages like these were common only decades before Jesus' time, and his forebears—including Joseph bar Jacob and Mary bat Joachim's own families—most likely lived their lives in such a manner.
Small agrarian village life was in a decline once Herod the Great initiated his massive building projects, particularly the construction of the Great Temple in Jerusalem. In a cultural revolution that took place only a few generations before Jesus was born, many village residents, perhaps even members of Mary and Joseph's own family—grandfathers, fathers, uncles, and cousins—may have abandoned their familial homes and agrarian life to seek a more urban lifestyle where steady work and consistent wages made food, shelter, and daily provisions much easier to obtain.
Just one note to correct your article; The area of the site should be listed as "Judea", and not "Israel". Israel did not become a nation, per se, until 1947CE.
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