Tourist Tip #115 / The Ancient Galilee Boat

The ‘Jesus Boat’, found as the Sea of Galilee sank in level, is among the most important archaeological discoveries in the north of Israel.

Next time you’re in northern Israel, chart a course for the remains of the “Jesus boat,” an ancient craft that sailed the Sea of Galilee, or Lake Kinneret, almost 2,000 years ago.

As so often happens in archaeology, its discovery was a stroke of serendipity. A series of dry winters had shrunk the freshwater lake, exposing bits of wood and iron nails on the beach. A frenetic salvage operation successfully removed the boat intact, and years of chemical treatment preserved it in the remarkable state it is in today.

Over 8 meters (27 feet) long and 2.3 meters (7-and-a-half-feet) wide, the boat had a mast and sail, but still employed four rowers and a helmsman on its fishing and ferry expeditions. Carbon dating of the wood and type comparisons of pottery objects found with the craft, place it solidly within the time of the New Testament. An excited popular press (and those with commercial pilgrim interests) immediately dubbed it the “Jesus Boat." It could have been in use somewhat later, though, and may be a relic of the fierce naval battle in the area in the year 67 C.E., during the Great Revolt against the Romans.

The boat is housed in the Beit Yigal Allon Museum, alongside the Nof Ginosar Hotel, 10 minutes north of Tiberias. A short video and interesting wall plaques give depth to one of the most significant finds in this part of the country.

Clean restrooms and good coffee complete the experience. 

There is an entrance fee. The musuem is open Sunday to Thursday 8 A.M. to 5 P.M., Friday and holiday eve 8 A.M. to 2 P.M., and Saturday 8 A.M. to 4 P.M.

Yaron Kaminsky