For the first time, the modern world has a complete example of the type of boat used on the Sea of Galilee during Jesus’ time.

In February, the hull of a boat measuring 27 feet by 7.6 feet was dug out of mud near the village of Magdala, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Much of Jesus’ earthly ministry was performed around the northern part of the sea.

In light of the discovery, Franciscan Catholics put on display a mosaic found during their 1977 excavation of a first-century Roman villa in Magdala. The mosaic shows a boat complete with mast, sails, and oars. “This mosaic provides us with the missing part of the boat we excavated,” said Mendel Nun, an authority on the Sea of Galilee.

The boat was discovered after a tractor got stuck on the shore. In digging the tractor out, coins from the Hellenistic period and from more recent times were uncovered. Two brothers, Moshe and Yuval Lufan, returned later to look for more coins. Instead of finding coins, they noticed a curved piece of wood in the mud. When they started to dig, they discovered an ancient boat.

The brothers contacted Nun, who helped organize an excavation team. The part of the boat covered by “soft, cheddar cheese-like” mud survived, Nun said. But the upper part of the boat was not found.

Researchers tentatively set the boat’s age between the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. Those dates correspond with the age of a cooking pot found near the vessel. A lamp dating to the first century B.C. was found inside the boat. It is the oldest boat ever found on the Sea of Galilee. (The next-oldest dates to Turkish rule, a 400-year period that ended in 1917.)

The boat, made of pine, has been sprayed with a fiberglass-like substance to keep the water-logged wood from drying and crumbling into dust. It will be immersed in an oil product to replace the water in the cells of the wood.


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