Life in the village of Capernaum developed beginning in the second century BC. Most of the information on the Capernaum in which Jesus, Peter and the other Apostles lived comes from the Gospels. The village, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee (a freshwater lake also known as Lake Tiberias), was not far away from a branch of the Via Maris, the ancient trade route linking Egypt to Damascus, as shown by the presence in Capernaum of a customs post (Matt 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27) and the discovery of a milestone bearing the name of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD). Capernaum was where the Centurion was stationed (Matt 8:5 ff.; John: 4:46-54) and where the taxes for the temple (Matt 17:24-27) and for the Roman treasury (Mark 2:14) were collected.
Daily life revolved around work: fishing, in particular, was one of the most remunerative activities. The brothers Andrew and Simon, later called Peter, and John and James, the sons of Zebedee, “were fishermen” (Matt 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20). The latter two managed a small fishing business with boats they owned and some youths they employed (Luke 5:1-11; John 21:1-11).
The numerous discoveries of implements used in daily life, such as basalt millstones for grinding grain (Mark 2:23; Matt 12:1; Luke 6:1) and others for treading olives or pressing grapes, provide an indication of some of the work activities that for centuries were carried out on a daily basis by the inhabitants.
The houses, grouped in quarters that were delineated by streets, were simple and built of local basalt stones mortared with mud and earth, and had stone floors (cf. parable of the woman who lost a coin, Luke 15:8-10).
Life took place largely outdoors: along the sandy shore, on the streets and in the private courtyards. Several families from the same clan would share a single house, consisting of a number of rooms that faced onto an open courtyard or were along a corridor (cf. the parable of the friend at midnight, Luke 11:1-13). The roof terrace, made from logs and leaves mixed with pressed mud, served various purposes: for sleeping during the hot nights, for drying the fishing nets, and for sun-drying fish and local fruits, such as date palms (cf. the story of the paralytic lowered through the roof: Mark 2:3-12; Luke 5:17-26).
To the north, just beyond the village, was the burial area, where one can still see a mausoleum from the time of the Empire, with five stone sarcophagi and eight kokhim (oven-shaped) tombs.
The excavations have shown that life began to improve beginning in fourth century: the houses were now built or repaired using good-quality mortar, while a large number of elegant ceramic works arrived from the African coast, Cyprus and Greece. Moreover, coins that have been found in the urban area come primarily from the Imperial (295-491 AD) and Byzantine (491-648 AD) eras. It was during the latter period that the monumental constructions of the synagogue and the orthogonal church lying above Peter’s house were carried out.
With the beginning of the Arab era (seventh century AD) the village began gradually to decline in importance. Only a relatively small number of houses continued to be used, with their floors raised and their crumbling walls replaced by new ones. The Arab presence is also signaled by the presence of various graffiti containing jokes left on the stones and stylobates in the synagogue, which with the growing Islamization of the population was no longer used as a prayer room. Over time, many of the buildings that had been abandoned collapsed, and the last remaining fishermen abandoned the village no later than the 14th century.