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Discovering Life in Magdala—from Jesus’ Times
ISRAEL | APOSTOLATE | NEWS
Day by day, Magdala hands over its treasures.

Magdala archaeology 1
In the midst of the vast terrain that extends down to the lake, the volunteers put up a shelter against the rising sun.

By Carina Scholz

Jerusalem, Israel. November 29, 2010. On the Sea of Galilee, on the land of the future Magdala Center, archaeologist Marcela Zapata (from the Legionaries’ Anahuac University in Mexico City) and her team of young volunteers from all over the world carry out excavations that reveal traces from daily life in the times when Jesus went to Magdala. Every day, this ancient land reveals new details.

It is 5:30 in the morning. Juan jumps out of bed and prepares to leave with the team of young volunteers for the excavation on the land at Magdala. To avoid the intense heat that invades the region around the Sea of Galilee from noon onward, the work day starts early. In the midst of the vast terrain that extends down to the lake, the volunteers put up a shelter against the rising sun.

Having arrived from Mexico two months ago, Juan, a 17-year-old philosophy major already knows how the work on the land goes. Like his teammates, he goes to his usual spot to excavate his parcel of land. The oriental sounds of the radio mix with the knocking of hammers on stone in an atmosphere of joyful concentration. Most of the
Fouilles archéologiques Magdala 2
The oriental sounds of the radio mix with the knocking of hammers on stone in an atmosphere of joyful concentration.
volunteers are students, from varied backgrounds and nationalities. Some stay for one year, others for several months to participate in the excavations on this biblical land, a witness of Jesus’ public life in Galilee.

The holy places around the Sea of Galilee are well known, thanks to the Gospels, and they have received many visits from pilgrims. In the Capernaum synagogue, Jesus gave his discourse on the “bread of life” (Jn 6:22-71); on the Sea of Galilee, he calmed the storm (Jn 6:16-21). The miraculous catch of fish took place here (Jn 21:1-23). It was on these banks that Jesus called the apostles and instituted Peter as the first pope. Today there are churches, like the church of the Primacy of Peter, that commemorate these events.

Thanks to its location close to the “Via Maris” trade route, Magdala, as an important fishing and trade center, was a rich city. It was a place where important cultural and economic meetings took place for the inhabitants of the region and for its many visitors.

Today, nothing remains to be seen of Magdala’s busy life from Jesus’ times. Nothing, or next to nothing: kneeling in the ruins, the volunteers daily discover a bit more of what resembles a rich palace. One can already make out 10 pieces, a doorway dominated by an arch, tiles… and when the team discovered frescoes on the wall and mosaics on the floor, there was no doubt: this building was an important residence.

John lifts two pieces of clay from the
Fouille archeologique Magdala 4
In pace with the excavations, the volunteers are discovering the daily life of ancient Magdala.
earth to see if they are from the same object, such as a vase or a dish, for example. In pace with the excavations, the volunteers are discovering the daily life of ancient Magdala. The deeper they go, the more they bring different objects to the light of day. Since the start of the excavations in July of this year, countless pieces of clay wait to be reassembled into dishes, vases, and amphorae. Over 200 Jewish coins have been found, as well as two bronze bells, oil amphorae in perfect condition, and lots of green and blue glass. A recently discovered tiny container made of blue glass resembles a tear: it was most likely meant to gather the first tears shed at the death of a loved one.

Around midday, Juan and the others sit around the big table in the shade. The big sandwiches are well deserved: two Jewish coins and many pieces of pottery came out of this long
Fouille archéologique Magdala 5
Around midday, Juan and the others sit around the big table in the shade.
morning of work. The volunteers talk about Jerusalem: as a reward for their efforts, the volunteers will be visiting two holy places this weekend.

But Juan has found the most extraordinary part of his stay in the Holy Land in Magdala: being among the first to reveal, centimeter by centimeter, with each coin, each piece of clay that emerges from the earth, the history of Jesus and his disciples and apostles who lived here 2000 years ago.

For more information, and if you would like to serve as a volunteer in Magdala, contact Carina Scholz at cscholz@magdalacenter.com.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2010-11-30


 
 

Related links

Catholic.net web site
New Gate Tours
Institute for the Psychological Sciences
Magdala Center
Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center
Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College


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Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.


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