Analysis of newly revealed items found at the site of the mausoleum of King Herod at Herodium (Herodion in Greek) have provided Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeological researchers with further assurances that this was indeed the site of the famed ruler’s 1st century BCE grave.
Herod was the Roman-appointed king of Judea from 37 to 4 BCE, who was renowned for his many monumental building projects, including the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the palace at Masada, the harbor and city of Caesarea, as well as the palatial complex at Herodium,
Cover of the white decorated sarcophagus (photo: Gabi Laron)
The mausoleum, says Prof. Ehud Netzer, director of the excavations, was deliberately destroyed by the Jewish rebels who occupied the site during the First Jewish Revolt against the Romans which started in about
Prof. Netzer admires painted window of the theater's loggia
The dating of the wall paintings makes it reasonable to assume, says Prof. Netzer, that the construction of the theater might be linked to Roman general and politician Marcus Agrippa’s visit to Herodium in 15 BCE. The theater and its lavish loggia were deliberately destroyed for the creation of the conical artificial mount that constitutes the widely known popular image of the Herodium site and that apparently was built at the very end of Herod's reign.
Prof. Netzer is convinced that Herodium would never have been built had it not been for Herod’s known determination, made at the beginning of his career, to be buried in this isolated, arid area. He undoubtedly personally chose the exact location for his mausoleum since it overlooks
The extensive site, which probably will not be fully excavated for many years to come, if ever, includes a huge palatial complex, the theater, and a “country club” of sorts, including a large pool, baths and gardens, in addition to Herod’s burial installations and mausoleum. The palace was the largest of its kind in the Roman world of that time and must have attracted yearly hundreds, if not thousands, of guests, says Prof. Netzer.
A description of Herodium, as well as of Herod’s funeral procession there, can be found in the writings of the ancient Roman-era historian, Flavius Josephus. The excavations, on behalf of the
Working with Prof. Netzer at the site have been Yaakov Kalman, Roi Porath and Rachel Chachy-Laureys of the Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology. Restoration work of the coffins was carried out by Orna Cohen, and the laboratory of the
Prof. Netzer is hopeful that with the further findings at Herodium, there will be increased visits to the site by Israelis and tourists, and that the overall area might be converted into a national park.
Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, said that “the Gush Etzion Regional Council views the
Dr. Netzer's work is the cover story of the December issue of National Geographic magazine, published in English and 31 local-language editions. In addition, a documentary film on the subject, "Herod’s Lost Tomb," will premiere on Sunday, Nov. 23, at 9 p.m. (Eastern U.S. Time and Pacific Time) on the National Geographic Channel-US and internationally at various times in 166 countries, beginning in late November.