Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sea of Galilee 2 of 2: The Jesus Boat

On a winter day in 1986, two fishermen from the Ginosaur Kibbutz were we were staying (one of whom is pictures in my photos below) were poking around in some mud on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee that year was at a record low due to a drought. They noticed some Roman era coins and nails, and then noticed something else that looked odd. They had the presence of mind to call the Israeli Antiquities Authority. which immediately sent experts to examine the find.

Lo, and behold, what was uncovered but a complete hull of what was once a fishing boat from the 1st Century, completely protected in the mud once it sank. It is about 26 feet by 7 feet by 3 feet high. It was cobbled together with over 15 different types of wood planks and boards. It was apparently built in the traditional "shell first" fashion, with mortise and tenon joinery. The size and shape completely match the descriptions of fishing boats from the area in sources like the gospels, the writings of Josephus, and depictions from mosaic floors from the time period.

The archaeologists devised a unique way of preserving it temporarily as it was removed from the mud. Being 2000 year old wood, it would have easily disintegrated on contact with modern air flow. They encased it in a type of expandable foam like one used to fill cracks in walls of houses. Once it was encased in this cocoon, it was moved by helicopter to a controlled laboratory where it was restored, and the foam was removed and replaced with an acrylic resin that allows it to be publicly displayed.

The museum that now permanently houses the boat in temperature controlled environs is on the grounds of the Kibbutz where it was found. The men who found it routinely appear and meet with tourists. Boats are mentioned no less than 50 times in the gospels, and it is exactly this type of boat that Jesus and Peter and Andrew would have sailed and fished from in the 1st century. It is the only man made object from this time that can still be seen in its native environment.

The boat was quickly labelled by the media as "The Jesus Boat." There are no inscriptions in the boat, so the odds that this boat was actually sailed in by Jesus are probably pretty long odds, but you never know.

Pezman419's Jesus Boat album on Photobucket

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