Magdala has a rich cultural history for both Jews and Christians. The archaeology found in Magdala holds incredible significance to the events that once took place. Magdala (near present day Migdal) is located on the western coastline of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) and at the eastern foothills of Mount Arbel. It is at the crossroads of Jewish and Christian history.
The site has been identified with the ancient city of Migdal Nunia which means fish tower. It was also known as Taricheae with a related meaning of the place of salted fish. It was the largest urban center on the western coast of the Sea of Galilee until the founding of Tiberias in 19 CE. The archaeological excavations have exposed a large portion of the northern quarter of Magdala primarily from the first century.
Magdala is known traditionally in Christian sources as the birthplace of Mary Magdalene. She is named at least 12 times in the gospels where she is described as one of several women traveling with Jesus and his disciples and personally supporting his work. She was one of the women who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and planned to tend to his body after the Sabbath. Mary Magdalene was the first eyewitness of the risen Christ and was commissioned by Jesus to inform the disciples of his resurrection. It is also certain that during his ministry Jesus taught in Magdala.
Magdala was also the home and main headquarters of the Jewish leader Yosef ben Matityahu. This leader later became better known as the Roman historian, Josephus Flavius. He was governor of the Galilee during the time of the Great Jewish Revolt (66-73 CE), and erected a defense wall around the city.
According to his historical account, Magdala became a gathering place for rebels who defied the Romans. These people were not citizens of the city, but people who came from elsewhere throughout the region.
In 67 CE, Roman forces commanded by Vespasian reached Magdala and put siege to the city. After its fall, many of the rebels fled by boat or were killed during battle in the Sea of Galilee. The Romans killed all the remaining inhabitants. Although there have been small settlements in the area over the centuries, Magdala was never reestablished. Magdala became a forgotten city, hidden beneath layers of soil deposited by rainwater and floods over two thousand years.
As the crossroads of Jewish and Christian history, Magdala has a unique past and a promising future.