Burnt House (Jerusalem)

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The Burnt House (הבית השרוף), also known as the "House of Kathros", are the remains of a first-century jewish house, which was destroyed in conflagration during the 70 CE Roman capture of the city of Jerusalem.


Today the Burnt House (or the Katros House) is a museum presenting an excavated house from the Second Temple period situated six metres below current street level in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

The Burnt House is believed to have been set on fire during the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. According to Josephus, Jerusalem's Upper City was known for its wealth. It was located close to the Temple and inhabited by priestly families who served in the temple. The house was destroyed one month after the Temple and Lower City. When the Romans stormed the Upper City, they found little resistance: Much of the population was near death from disease and starvation.


circa 70 CE

Residential House
In 1970 one of the findings of the Avigad excavations was the Burnt House, which was found under a layer of ashes and destruction, indicating that the house had been burned down.

The house is only part of a large complex, which could not be fully excavated and still lies under the Jewish Quarter. Coins were found in the house issued by the Roman governors of Judea, as well as those issued by the Jewish rebels in 67–69 CE and none that were later than that, indicating that the house was burned down at the end of this time.

circa 70 CE

Floor Plan
The ground floor of the Burnt House was exposed to reveal a house with an area of about 55 (32 ft) square. It included a small courtyard, four rooms, a kitchen and a mikvah (ritual bath). The walls of the house, built of stones and cement and covered with a thick white plaster, were preserved to a height of about one meter. In the beaten-earth floors of the rooms were the sunken bases of round ovens made of brown clay, indicating perhaps that this wing of the house was used as a workshop.

The courtyard of the house was paved with stone, and through it one reached the kitchen and the other rooms. Three of these were medium-sized and a fourth, a side room, extremely small. The very small mikvah is covered with gray plaster and has four steps descending to its bottom. In the corner of the kitchen was a stove, basalt grinding-stones next to it, and a large stone tray. Several stone jars were also found in the kitchen. The occupants probably used the heavy stone kitchenware, rather than pottery, because according to Halacha they do not contract ritual impurity. This suggests the occupants were a priestly family, who had to maintain their cleanness in order to work at the temple. This is also indicated by the presence of the mikvah.

circa 70 CE

Drainage Channel
A covered drainage channel from the Roman period was also uncovered and subsequently preserved. According to the historian Josephus, some of the last Jewish rebels to hold out against the Romans hid in tunnels such as this.


circa 70 CE

The excavated house is open to the public, and its artifacts are on display in the small museum near the room. The 12-minute audio-visual presentation, set up inside the house, plays back the nearly 2,000-year-old events: the preparations of the revolt against the Romans, the different political opinions of the family members, news on the approaching Roman Legions, the destruction of the temple, the storming of both the city and the house, then ending with the torching of the house.


circa 70 CE

"Kathros" Weighing-stone
In the ruins a small round weighing-stone was also found, bearing an inscription (writted in square Aramaic/Hebrew) (of) "Bar Kathros", meaning the "son of Kathros"; indicating that the house belonged to the Kathros family.

The Talmud mentions the Kathros family as one of four large High Priestly familes who apparently abused their status in the granting of duties with the Temple and who really seemed to have ruled the city in the time of Roman Procurators. The Talmud describes them in Pesahim 57A in a poem that lists the priestly families that abused their positions in the temple. The attack for misusing their pens may mean they spread false rumors or misinformation. Although someone may have carried this weight from another house, the Bar Kathros family certainly had a house in Jerusalem, given their priestly position, and this one is a good candidate.

Other Small Items
Also found were inkwells (inspect), Roman-period oil lamps that were used to light up the house during the evenings, and other household items, the large jugs, bowls and measuring cups, indicating that this was a perfume production workshop. Leaning against a corner of a room was an iron spear, which may have belonged to one of the Jewish fighters who lived here.


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