Most houses had earthen houses with a flat roof made of dirt and straw. In the summer, people would sleep on the roof to stay cool and the space therefore became another area of the house.
Houses were simple constructions like a cube. They usually consisted of one (or sometimes two) rooms where all the living, eating sleeping and so on took place. Poorer families who couldn't afford the use of an outside 'room' or cave also shared their homes with their livestock. The roof was usually made of rushes woven together which gave protection from the night cold and also the daytime heat. Windows and doorways were small - again for protection against the weather. Doorways had wooden doors in them that could be locked and windows were just open rectangular holes with no glass as glass was extremely expensive.
Occasionally (depending upon the area of the country) the roof was solid, and surrounded by a low parapet and access was by a stone stairway at the side of the house. Here was extra living space but it was open to the sky so not much use except in dry, warm weather.
The husband was considered to be the spiritual and legal head of the house. He was responsible for feeding, sheltering and protecting the family. Parents, unmarried children, and a married son and spouse would often all live under one roof.
Life in first century Palestine was based on an agricultural and pastoral economy. Most citizens lived simply, close to the land. Grains and other foods were grown in the fields surrounding the villages, such as barley, beans, lettuce and cucumbers. Meat was reserved for special occasions as animals were needed for wool, milk, and to drive the plough. Sweet foods were made from honey, dates, almonds and nuts.
Typical clothing comprised of a long, loose-fitting tunic with openings for the head and arms, usually made from one piece of woolen or linen cloth. The tunic was white, or off-white, as dyed fabrics were more expensive. Around the waist was a belt of leather or wool, and an over-cloak or mantle was put over the top. The over-cloak or tunic was hung with tassels or fringes at each of the four corners, to follow the religious observance of the time (Numbers 15:38, Deuteronomy 22:12). Women might wear a scarf or veil to decorate and to conceal their face, whilst men usually went bareheaded.
Farming was essential to the economy of the time and it provided produce that was turned into goods in towns and villages, such as brain, olive oil and grapes. Other jobs in the villages and towns included potters, shipbuilders, metalworkers, bricklayers, and stonemasons. Public servants, such as tax collectors, worked for the Roman authorities.
Adapted from "Teaching the Bible" by Maurice Ryan