"Now here just next to the basilica, we have found not only some cisterns but also the remains of the walls of a house above ground, above the bedrock and this hasn't been found up till now, so it really is some kind of revelation from the point of view of Nazareth itself."
10. Pan right of dig
11. Mid of woman at work
12. Man lifting up cover of well
13. Various of archaeologists at work
14. Set up of Father Jack Karam of the Basilica of the Annunciation touring the site
15. SOUNDBITE: (English) Father Jack Karam, Basilica of the Annunciation
"To have this now, in this time, in this period it's very interest (interesting), especially we are in Christmas so it's a gift to Nazareth."
Days before Christmas, Israeli archaeologists on Monday unveiled what they said were the remains of the first dwelling in Nazareth that can be dated back to the time of Jesus.
The find could shed new light on what the hamlet was like during the period the New Testament says Jesus lived there as a boy.
The dwelling and older discoveries of nearby tombs in burial caves suggest that Nazareth was an out-of-the-way hamlet of around 50 houses on a patch of about four acres (1.6 hectares).
It was evidently populated by Jews of modest means who kept camouflaged grottos to hide from Roman invaders, said archaeologist Yardena Alexandre, excavations director at the Israeli Antiquities Authority.
Based on clay and chalk shards found at the site, the dwelling appeared to be "the sort of house that Jesus or people of his period would have lived in," Alexandre said, as workers at the site carefully chipped away at mud with small pickaxes to reveal stone walls.
Nazareth holds a cherished place in Christianity.
It is the town where Christian tradition says Jesus grew up and where an angel told Mary she would bear the child of God.
The discovery so close to Christmas has pleased local Christian authorities who say it adds proof to the veracity of their Biblical traditions.
"It's a gift to Nazareth," said a smiling Father Jack Karam of the nearby Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
Alexandre's team found remains of a wall, a hideout, a courtyard and a water system that appeared to collect water from the roof and supply it to
The discovery was made when builders dug up the courtyard of a former convent to make room for a new Christian centre, just yards (metres) away from the Basilica.
It is not clear how big the dwelling is - Alexandre's team have uncovered about 900 square feet (85 square metres) of the house, but it may have been for an extended family and could be much larger, she said.
Alexandre said her team also found a camouflaged entry way into a grotto, which she believes was used by Jews at the time to hide from Roman soldiers who were battling Jewish rebels at the time for control of the area.
The grotto would have hid around six people for a few hours, she said.
However, Roman soldiers did not end up battling Nazareth's Jews because the hamlet had little strategic value at the time.
The Roman army was more interested in larger towns and strategic hilltop communities, she said.
Alexandre said similar camouflaged grottos were found in other ancient Jewish communities of the lower Galilee such as the nearby Biblical village
of Cana, which did witness battle between Jews and Romans.
At the site, Alexandre told reporters that archaeologists also found clay and chalk vessels which were likely used by Galilean Jews of the time.
The scientists concluded a Jewish family lived there because of the chalk, which was used by Jews at the time to ensure the purity of the food and water kept inside the vessels.
The shards also date back to the time of Jesus, which includes the late Hellenic, early Roman period that ranges from around 100 B.C. to 100 A.D.,
The only other artefacts that archaeologists have found in the Nazareth area from the time of Jesus are ancient burial caves outside the hamlet,
providing a rough idea of the village's population at the time, Alexandre said.
Work is now taking place to clear newer ruins built above the dwelling, which will be preserved.
The dwelling will become a part of a new international Christian centre being constructed close to the site and funded by a French Roman Catholic group, said an official from the Chemin Neuf Community overseeing construction.
Alexandre said limited space and population density in Nazareth means it is unlikely that archaeologists can carry out any further excavations in the
area, leaving this dwelling to tell the story of what Jesus' boyhood home may have looked like.