Friday, May 11, 2007

More on Herod's Tomb

Ehud Netzer displays one of the finds from Herod’s tomb. Photo by Ulrich Sahm.

Adapted from the BAR website, read more about the Herod tomb discovery:

Herod Tomb Update

May 10, 2007

“Ehud Netzer is 100 per cent certain he’s found King Herod’s tomb,” BAR editor Hershel Shanks told us from Jerusalem. He was among the first reporters to visit Herodium with excavator Ehud Netzer the day after Netzer announced that he had located the tomb inside the northeast slope of the volcano-shaped site. Netzer, of Hebrew University, first began his excavations at Herodium 35 years ago.

Located about 8 miles south of Jerusalem, Herodium is a striking structure built by Herod to house a fortress and palaces. At the base of the mountain, Herod built a small city, called Lower Herodium, and many scholars had believed that his tomb was somewhere at the base. Others, Shanks told us, had suggested that Herod’s tomb was in one of the towers at the top of the mountain, the only one of the four towers that had been sealed off in ancient times.

“The tomb is quite far down the slope,” Shanks said. From the base, a processional course featuring fancy architecture leads up the slope. Netzer and his team found a 10-meter-square (about 32 by 32 feet) podium. “Netzer hypothesizes that the podium supported a mausoleum,” Shanks continued, adding that Netzer had found fragments of both the mausoleum and a sarcophagus that had been inside it. “The sarcophagus was vengefully destroyed about 70 years after Herod’s death by members of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome” according to Netzer, Shanks said.

Netzer recognizes that because he did not find an inscription with Herod’s name not all scholars will accept his conclusion that this is indeed the tomb of ancient Judea’s at-times mad king. Netzer had hoped to publish a technical article on his findings, but when he realized that the story would soon come out in the media, he decided to hold a press conference to lay out his finds and his conclusions.

Shanks noted that when Netzer does publish his scientific article, some scholars may take issue with his conclusions. But Shanks gives great weight to Netzer’s theory. “Ehud Netzer has been living with Herod the Great for 50 years, so he feels the man. He also brings an architect’s eye to his work,” Shanks said. “If anyone understands Herod, it’s Ehud Netzer.”

Since our news account about the find (see below), Hebrew University has posted two reports on the web; they can be found here: and here:

Some very nice pictures of Professor Netzer and the site can be viewed here.The German publication Spiegel also has some very good photos at:

And less than a day after the announcement of the find, the possible political ramifications for Israeli-Palestinian conflict entered into the picture:

Herod’s Tomb Found

May 8, 2007

Thirty-five years after he first began excavating the site of Herodium, archaeologist Ehud Netzer, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has finally found what he’s been looking for—the tomb of Herod the Great, the murderous king who ruled Judea on behalf of Rome from 37 to 4 B.C.

The tomb turned out to be on the northeast slope of the manmade, volcano-shaped mountain of Herodium, about 8 miles south of Jerusalem. The builder of many grand projects throughout his kingdom—Caesarea, Masada, the expanded Temple Mount in Jerusalem—Herod constructed Herodium on a vast scale, with complexes inside the mountain and also a small city at the base, called Lower Herodium.

Herod seems to have originally intended his tomb to be inside a mausoleum in Lower Herodium but changed his mind later life and decided to be interred inside the mountain itself. At the top of the mountain Herod had built a fortress, a mountain and a monument; the tomb itself was approached by a monumental staircase about 21-feet wide.

Herod’s ornate sarcophagus, however, had been smashed in ancient times, likely by participants of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (67-70 A.D.)—a reflection of how widely hated Herod was by his subjects, who saw him as a cruel puppet of Rome.

BAR published an extensive overview of Herodium by Netzer himself; click here to read it.

To see Hebrew University’s announcement of the discovery, click here.

A press report from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz can be read at

A selection of photos can be found at Yahoo.

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