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The small fishing village of Capernaum seems to have been the center of Jesus' activity in Galilee.
John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed, Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts (HarperSanFrancisco, 2001) devote several pages to a discussion of Capernaum in the First Century (pp. 81-97).
The most salient features to note are as follows:
POPULATION: around 1,000 persons on 25 acres of land
BUILDINGS: none of the Greco-Roman architecture of a significant urban center: no gates, no defensive fortifications, no civic structures (theater, amphitheater, hippodrome), no public bathhouse, no public latrine, no basilica for civic gatherings or commercial activities, no constructed agora (market) with shops and storage facilities
STREETS: no sign of planning in layout of streets, no streets appear to have been paved, no channels for running water, sewage disposed on the site, no plaster surfaces, no decorative fresco, no marble of any kind, no ceramic roof tiles (contra Luke 5:19)
INSCRIPTIONS: none from 1C or earlier have been found
HOUSES: used local dark basalt, crooked wooden beams, straw, reeds, mud. Poor quality of construction. No evidence of skilled craftsmen. Mostly single storeys and with thatched roofs (as implied in Mark's version of Jesus healing a paralysed man). Several abutting rooms centered around a courtyard. usually just a single entrance.
BOATS: lakeside location supported a fishing industry, but town shows no evidence of wealth. The discovery of a 1C fishing boat in 1986 (during a drought that lowered the water level) confirms the impression of a community struggling to survive but with considerable ingenuity in making the most of limited resources.
In one of his classic turns of phrase, Crossan describes Capernaum as "not a sought-after spot, but a good place to get away from, with easy access across the Sea of Galilee to any side." (p. 81)
- BiblePlaces: Photographs and brief notes on the Capernaum ruins