External area: archaeology itinerary
The museum itinerary continues through the archaeology section, alongside the Basilica, where visitors can see the series of grottos that belonged to the village, including the worshipped grotto. This area was dug between 1955 and 1960 under the supervision of Father Bellarmino Bagatti together with Father Emmanuele Testa. Part of the area had already been unearthed at the start of the 1900s by the French Father Viaud, who discovered the grotto where the crusade capitals were unearthed.
There are also the remains of the Franciscan monastery of the 17th century and the crusade Archbishops palace, where within the walls the museum hall was built.
The remains of the village can be found in the entire Franciscan area, through to the Church of St. Joseph, but the part that can be visited is that immediately north of the Basilica, below the suspended platform.
The digs have revealed a complex of homes and grottos that make up the village inhabited in the 1st century AC, but also objects dating back to different eras.
The village from the time of Jesus was small with a strong farming vocation. Later buildings destroyed much of the ancient settlement, of which mainly the grottos survive, together with the silos for storing grain and a number of useful tools, used above all for grinding the grain and pressing olives.
The houses were built directly onto the rock, without additional foundations. The grottos discovered in this area were part of the homes and were mainly used as storage areas for grain, or as animal shelters. The Nazarene houses from the time of Jesus, as in most of the villages discovered from archaeological digs in the Palestine regions, featured small spaces, divided by walls. The flat roofs were made up of wooden beams onto which a covering in cane and palm leafs was placed, protected in turn by a mix of straw and mud, which required continuous maintenance.
The various rooms looked onto a central courtyard that undoubtedly represented the core of the home. Now, we can only made an educated guess as to the use and functions of these spaces, of which mainly the grottos and silos only remain. The latter are pear-shaped holes with a circular opening, often stacked one onto the other, and used to store grain. The archaeological area also shows the remains of water cisterns.
A grotto immediately to the north of the basilica is the area closest to that of the Annunciation. Here Viaud discovered the five capitals of the Crusade era, perhaps buried to be hidden or simply lost after the ruin of the crusade basilica.
The front of this grotto shows the remains of the walls of the room leading to the grotto itself. Its good state of conservation suggests the development of the home. Inside we can see the remains of an oven and handles to which the animals were tied.
Along the itinerary, visitors can admire the mosaics removed during the digs in the presbyterial area of the lower basilica, which were part of the shrine and the Byzantine monastery.