Boat found at Sea of Galilee dates back to time of Jesus

Pottery and nails that were found near the boat are displayed in the Ancient Galilee Boat museum in Israel

By Jackie Shecker Finch - Herald times Online

After a severe four-year drought, two fishermen were walking alongside the Sea of Galilee when they made an amazing discovery.

Buried in the sea was the barely visible remains of an ancient boat. At its lowest level in memory, the Sea of Galilee in 1986 was unveiling its tremendous treasure.

The brothers were shocked, however, to learn just how old the muddy boat turned out to be. Carbon dating and other techniques traced the large vessel to the time of Jesus.

“It seems impossible that the boat survived and that it was found,” said Orna Cohen, archaeologist and conservator of the vessel that has come to be called “The Jesus Boat.”

“If the drought hadn’t lowered the sea so much and if these two brothers hadn’t seen the nails of the boat and if they hadn’t contacted an archaeologist, the boat might never have been found,” Cohen said. “It was against all odds that these things happened.”

Buried in and protected by the seabed’s sediment, the boat was rescued in a painstaking and remarkable 11-day excavation. The delicate hull was then submerged in a chemical bath for seven years before being shared with the public.

The boat is 26.9 feet long, 7.5 feet wide and 3.9 feet tall. Adaptable to both sail and oars, the boat was used primarily for fishing but could also serve for transporting goods and passengers. “It would hold about 15 people,” Cohen said.

Although there is no evidence to scientifically tie the boat to Jesus, Cohen noted that Jesus lived along the Sea of Galilee at the time and that boats played a large role in his life and ministry.

The Gospels record that Jesus’ first disciples were fishermen and that Jesus spoke to large crowds from aboard a boat. It is the Sea of Galilee that Jesus walked upon and where he calmed a storm.

“He was a fisher of men,” Cohen said. “There were very few boats here at the time and there are lots of reasons to believe that at least Jesus saw this boat and that he may have touched it or sailed on it.”

Fourteen years after its excavation, the boat was moved to its permanent home in a new wing of the Yigal Allon Centre.

Located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee near the city of Tiberias, the Ancient Galilee Boat museum recounts the discovery, excavation and preservation of the boat, called one of history’s greatest archaeological finds.