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Shopkeeper claims discovery of Jesus' bathhouse

A shopkeeper running a small souvenir business in Nazareth claims to have discovered a preserved Roman bathhouse in which Jesus is likely to have bathed.

Elias Shama began excavating the tunnels after he and his Belgian wife, Martina, bought the shop ten years ago, and found a series of 1.2 metre high passages, separated by columns of small bricks supporting a white marble floor. In one corner they found a walled-off room where a residue of wood ash revealed it once served as a furnace.

American excavators are convinced that what Shama has exposed is an almost perfectly preserved Roman bathhouse from 2000 years ago - the time of Christ, and in the town where he was raised. In a piece of marketing that is soon likely to be echoing around the world, Shama says he has stumbled across the "bathhouse of Jesus".

The discovery comes at a convenient time for the depressed local tourist industry. Observers believe the effects on Holy Land tourism are likely be profound, with Nazareth becoming a challenger to Jerusalem and Bethlehem as the world's most popular site of Christian pilgrimage.

However archeologist Tzvi Shacham of the Tel Aviv Antiquities Museum says all the evidence indicates that the bath, like the neighbouring Greek Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel, was built during the Crusader period, at least a millennium after Christ.

Stephen Pfann, president of the Jerusalem-based University of the Holy Land, said the Roman part of Nazareth covered a small area where the modern Basilica of the Annunciation now stands, and it never extended as far as the well and Mr. Shama's shop.

Is this where Jesus bathed? (The Guardian)
Nazareth bathhouse not from Jesus's time, experts say (Globe and Mail/Associated Press)

Covering history with concrete (Al-Ahram)

23 Oct 2003