In 1986, after a series of dry winters caused the waters of the Sea of Galilee to recede, two fishermen brothers from Nof Ginosar discovered the hull of a first-century ancient boat mired in the mud of the lakebed. Some might say it was meant to be found. Either way, it was one of the most significant archaeological finds in decades because of its association with the time of Jesus.
Scholars speculate that the boat might have been used as a ferry. Others suggest it was used in battle against the Romans during the Great Revolt in 67 AD. What is most likely is that it began life as a fishing vessel around the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
The boat also has evidence of a lengthy existence. Although most boats were crafted of cedar and oak, repeated repairs suggest the boat was used for several decades. When it was considered beyond repair, all useful wooden parts were stripped and the remaining hull sunk to the bottom of the lake.
The subsequent excavation of the Ancient Galilee Boat, nicknamed by some as the “Jesus Boat,” from its resting place, involved meticulous planning. The wood was waterlogged and brittle. The structure crumbled when touched. So, pulling the boat from the mud without damaging it—yet quickly enough to extract it before the water rose again—was a delicate process lasting approximately 11 days.
After encasing the boat in polyurethane foam in preparation for its move, the boat was floated to its new home where it was submerged in a synthetic wax bath for seven years before it could be displayed.
While there is no evidence connecting the boat to Jesus or His disciples, it is certainly compelling to think that Jesus may have seen the boat sail on the Sea of Galilee — or even used it Himself. Regardless of its history, the “Jesus Boat” is a powerful visual reminder that brings to life many of the Gospel accounts.
Today, the boat is safely ensconced at the Yigal Alon Center at Nof Ginosar, fascinating visitors and scholars alike.