Nazareth: Hellenistic evidence + various
- Bagatti himself admits: "we have met with only few traces of the
Hellenistic period" (Exc. 319). A close study of his writings reveals
only a few specific Hellenistic claims. Those artefacts, however,
prove on examination to belong to the later Roman Period or to the
Iron Age, as determined by specialists who have reviewed some of
Bagatti's results. In any case, Bagatti's admission of the paucity of
Hellenistic evidence contradicts Meyers and Strange's remarkable
position, stated in 1981: "It is the second century B.C.E. that
extensive remains are to be found" at Nazareth (Arch., the Rabbis, and
Early Christianity, p. 57). In 1992, Strange continues this general
line in the ABD article "Nazareth" with the statements that the
village "came into being in the course of the 3d century B.C." and,
"It is the late Hellenistic period that gives life to Nazareth." This
view is much more appropriate to nearby Sepphoris, where both Meyers
and Strange excavated extensively, than to Nazareth, where neither of
them excavated. Incidentally, Strange's view also conflicts with the
Catholic position that Nazareth has been continuously inhabited since
the time of Abraham (the Bronze Age, Exc. 319)-- remarkable in its own
right, placing Nazareth on a par with only a handful of cities as
D. Hamidovic reviewed Bagatti's results and writes in 2004 (Anc. Near
Eastern Texts 41): "[B]etween the end of Iron I and the Roman Period,
it is not certain that the site [i.e. Nazareth] was occupied, or
perhaps [ou bien], the site was very sparsely populated according to
the recovered archaeological material" (p. 102). Thus, I am certainly
not the only person to question pre-Roman habitation of the basin. My
position is more radical than that of Hamidovic only in that I
consider settlement at Nazareth also absent in the Early Roman Period
(to 70 CE).
Message #4491 mentions "Herodian lamp fragments." I remind the list
that "Herodian lamps" is a technical term for bow-spouted lamps, which
date 1-150 CE (post-Herod the Great). They are not evidence for a
pre-Jesus village. These lamps in all probability date between the two
Jewish revolts. There is no "Hellenistic-Roman series of lamps," as
Mr. Hall states. This phrase probably derives from the caption at Exc.
300 (fig. 233). The only alleged Hellenistic artefact in that figure
is no. 26, which in my study I have dubbed the "infamous Hellenistic
nozzle." It is, in fact, the nozzle of a local lamp tradition not
appreciated by Bagatti, one represented by three lamps in Tomb 70
(Exc. fig. 192:15) and by some lamps found in tombs excavated near
Nazareth by N. Feig. That "Hellenistic" nozzle in all likelihood dates
50 CE-150 CE.
Mr. Goranson mentions again a brief prose report which included the
word "Hellenistic" in connection with Nazareth. My position, now
restated, is that I don't admit mere "claims" as evidence but require
an accompanying illustration, description, and itemization. It's
nonsense to characterize the maintaining of high standards of evidence
as "special pleading." It's a wonder that one should need to defend
the application of strict standards in a scholarly group. I suggest
that whoever is against such high evidentiary standards in the case of
Nazareth should question their motives. What on earth can be wrong
with insisting upon verifiable evidence? Such strict accounting
permits independent verification-- not simply by myself, but also by
those who will use my work in the future.
If one accepted all the contradictory claims made regarding Nazareth
over the years, then every position under the sun would be
represented. We would simply pick and choose whichever writer pleases
us. One writes that there was a Hellenistic renaissance (Strange),
another that Nazareth existed continually since the Bronze Age
(Bagatti). One writes that Nazareth was always on the side of the hill
(Bagatti), another that it moved three times before the turn of the
era (Kopp). One writes that there are "extensive remains" from
Hellenistic times (Strange), another that there are only "traces"
(Bagatti) and a third is not sure of any at all (Hamidovic). In other
words, we need verification to sort out what is true from what is not.
We must go behind these conflicting claims to see *on what* they are
based. For that, we need itemizations, illustrations, and descriptions
of the evidence.
Incidentally, it is eminently possible to prove a negative. This is
done all the time. When one digs in the ground one sees not only what
is there, but also what is not there. One writes: "x is there," and "y
is not there." When Bagatti dug the stratigraphic trench in 1955 in
hopes of finding evidence of habitations, he was disappointed: "at
least where excavated," he writes, "there were no habitations" (Exc.
236). This is a negative, evidenced by digging.
The proposition of Hamidovic that a Bronze Age tablet found at Hazor
*may* carry the name of Nazareth strikes me as farfetched, even if the
town name is correctly reconstructed as "Nassura." There is, of
course, no *necessary* link between such a "Nassura" and the alleged
Bronze Age Nazara (Nazareth). The Bronze-Iron Age remains in the
Nazareth basin are, according to my analysis, likely those of
The connection between Nazara and Cochaba, mentioned by Julius
Africanus (cited by Euseb., Eccl. Hst 1.7) I find intriguing, and
would be interested in anyone's views on this matter. The most
extensive treatment I have found is Joan Taylor's "Christians and the
Holy Places," pp. 36-38. There, she identifies several possible
Cochabas-- three are east of the Jordan, one in Galilee (map ref
173/248). Eusebius elsewhere associates Choba with Damascus. Was not
the "land of Damascus" an epithet in the DSS for Qumran? Do we
possibly have here a remote association between Nazareth and the
Qumran area (as the provenance of Jesus)?
There are a number of ethnographical studies of pottery that were published in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, primarily in AA. I think some of these appear in Kramer's "Ceramic Ethnoarchaeology" in Annual Review of Anthropology 1985. Mostly this was American, but the idea is that because of frequent use and because of frequent thermal shock that cooking vessels have a life-span in the range of months not years. Amphorae are at the other end of the scale in years if not decades. Oh yes, see Longacre's article in Decoding Prehistoric Ceramics and references there.
I hope this helps.