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The Historical Nazareth: Oops!

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  • Teresa Callahan, M.D. Ben Douglas, M.D.
    Weasel asked about Reed s estimate of Nazareth s population. I had written less than 4000 people but that was a mistyping. Reed actually says in his book
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 31, 2000
      Weasel asked about Reed's estimate of Nazareth's population. I had
      written "less than 4000 people" but that was a mistyping. Reed
      actually says in his book that the size of the site suggests a
      population of "LESS THAN 400 PEOPLE." Sorry for the mistake. I was
      typing in a hurry and did not have time to proofread the post before
      sending it (and before heading off to a New Year's Eve party!). I
      think 400 people makes a lot more sense than 4000! Reed cites James
      Strange's "Nazareth," Anchor Bible Dictionary(ABD) 4:1050-51 for this
      population figure. He also notes that some Pre-Christian Aramaic
      funerary inscriptions were found around Nazareth, citing Clemens
      Kopp,"Beitrage zur Geschichte Nazareths," Journal of the Palestinian
      Oriental Society 18(1938)191-228.

      Reed notes that no luxury or elite objects of material culture were
      found from the first century in Nazareth--no public structures, no
      marble, mosaics or frescoes, no public inscriptions whatsoever, which
      leads Reed to conclude that the village inhabitants were illiterate
      and without elite sponsors. Reed does not say how the material
      culture remains were dated. However, in a discussion of the pottery
      found at Nazareth and other Galilean sites dating from the Late
      Hellenistic Period or the first century B.C.E., Reed cites Eric
      Meyers et al., "The Meiron Excavation Project: Archaeological
      Survey in Galilee and Golan, 1976," Bulletin of the American Schools
      of Oriental Research 230 (1978) 7-8; and Mordechai Aviam, "Galilee:
      The Hellenistic to Byzantine Periods," New Encyclopedia of
      Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land 2.453. Other sources
      cited for pottery sherds at Nazareth are J. Strange, "Nazareth,"
      ABD 4.1051 and idem,"Nazareth," Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in
      the Near East 4.113-14.

      The Jewish tombs from the first or second century C.E. are discussed
      by Bellarmino Bagatti in "Excavations in Nazareth, Volume 1: From
      the Beginning till the XII Century"(Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing
      Press, 196), 237-24, 318. (I transcribed that citation directly from
      Reed's book, although some of the numbers look questionable.)
      Bellarmino reports finding stone vessels, a seven-stepped miqweh
      under a later mosaic, and kokhim-type tombs with ossuary fragments
      strewn about(but no bone profile is reported). Again, dating methods
      are not discussed by Reed, but may be available in the cited works.

      Perhaps some of these citations will give more information about the
      dating methods used to establish the presence of settlements in
      Nazareth in the first century C.E.


      Teresa Callahan, M.D.
      Eugene, Oregon
      Oregon State University
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