Capernaum Archaeology and Excavations
Discovery and excavation
In 1838, the American explorer, Edward Robinson discovered the ruins of the ancient Capernaum.
In 1866, British Captain Charles William Wilson identified the remains of the synagogue, and in 1894, Franciscan Friar Giuseppe Baldi of Naples, the Custodian of the Holy Land, was able to recover a good part of the ruins from the Bedouins.
The Franciscans raised a fence to protect the ruins from frequent vandalism, and planted palms and eucalyptus trees brought from Australia to create a small oasis for pilgrims. They also built a small harbor. These considerable labors were directed by the Franciscan Virgilio Corbo.
The most important excavations began in 1905 under the direction of the Germans Heinrich Kohl and Carl Watzinger. They were continued by the Franciscans Fathers Vendelin von Benden (1905–1915) and Gaudenzio Orfali (1921–1926). The excavations resulted in the discovery of two public buildings, the synagogue (which was partially restored by Fr Orfali), and an octagonal church. Later, in 1968, excavation of the western portion of the site-the portion owned by the Franciscans-was restarted by Corbo and Stanislao Loffreda, with the financial assistance of the Italian government. During this phase, the major discovery was of a house which is claimed to be St. Peter's house, in a neighborhood of the town from the First Century AD. These excavations have been ongoing, with some publication on the Internet as recently as 2003.
The excavations revealed that the site was established at the beginning of the Hasmonean Dynasty, roughly in the second century BC, and was abandoned in the 11th century AD.
The eastern half of the site-the portion owned by an Orthodox monastery-has also been surveyed and partially excavated under the direction of Vasilios Tzaferis. This section has uncovered the village from the Byzantine and Arab periods. Features include a pool apparently used for the processing of fish and a hoard of gold coins. (Tzaferis, 1989).
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