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Archaeological Treasures Reveal More About Life in Jesus' Time

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BEIT SHEMESH, Israel Every year, Israeli archaeologists dig up tens of thousands of artifacts, but where do they go? The answer is giant warehouses, and as CBN News found out, many of those finds are telling more and more about the time of Jesus and early Christian pilgrimage to the land of the Bible.  

In Beit Shemesh, just outside Jerusalem, is a huge storage facility, the national treasury of the Israel Antiquities Authority. 

"This is the place at the end of the day all archaeological findings in the country come to rest," said Gideon Avni, head of the archaeology division of the IAA.

CBN News got a rare look at a handful of the millions and millions of artifacts here from large water jugs – like the ones filled with water Jesus turned into wine – to burial boxes and much, much more.

"We want to show here an assemblage of the time of Jesus," said Debora Ben Ami, senior curator of the Iron Age and Persian Periods, National Treasures Department of the IAA.  

Ben Ami pointed out large vessels of limestone that would have contained water.  Limestone was necessary to keep the purity laws of the day. There were also smaller vessels of limestone and ceramics – both local and Roman-made.  

"Every year, there are something like 30-40,000 new artifacts. We are conducting around 300 excavations per year," Avni told CBN News.

Avni said in the last 20-30 years the knowledge about life during the time of Christ has increased tenfold. 

"We can reconstruct today what happened to an average person during the time of Christ from the minute of his birth 'til his burial in most cases," Avni said.

One find is a rare stone from a synagogue at Magdala, home to Mary Magdalene. Jesus could have preached in this synagogue, Avni said.

And there's more. Recently archaeologists found nine copper coins at an ancient Christian site from about 1,400 years ago.

"These coins show one of the major aspects of Christian pilgrimage to the holy land, where tens of thousands of people were coming from all over the known world of this time, all of them coming to follow the footsteps of Christ using the road system climbing to Jerusalem," Avni explained.

The site contained a pilgrim hostel and monastery and was abandoned or destroyed by the Persians, he said.

IAA archaeologist Annette Landes-Nagar said the hoard related to the "last chapter" of the Byzantine site, dated between the 5th and 7th centuries AD.

"The Persians originate from Asia, enter the country through Syria, they go down the coastline and inland and they destroy churches on the way," Landes-Nagar told CBN News. 

"The inhabitants of the site felt the danger approaching and they did what humanity usually does in times of danger and they hide their possessions in hope to return in peace times. But as we know they never did," she said.

Although archaeologists are hesitant to say archaeology proves the Bible, they say that it gives evidence of life during biblical times.

"If you are speaking about the New Testament, archaeology very much reinforces the narrative and descriptions of the gospels providing physical evidence about many, many things," Avni said.

And if you can't make the trip to Israel, Avni says you'll soon be able to see many more artifacts on the web telling the story of the land of the Bible from pre-historic times until 150 years ago.

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