Arutz-7 appears to be the first with a detailed report from the press conference.  The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz are still reporting only the basics.

The approach to the burial site was via a monumental flight of stairs 6.5 meters wide, leading to the hillside; the stairs were especially constructed for the funeral procession. Herod died in Jericho, but left instructions to be buried in the area known as the Herodium.
The mausoleum itself was almost totally dismantled in ancient times, but part of its well-built podium remains. Spread among the ruins are pieces of a large, unique coffin, nearly 2.5 meters (over 8 feet) made of a Jerusalemite reddish limestone, decorated by rosettes. The sarcophagus (coffin) had a triangular cover, which was decorated on its sides. Only very few similar sarcophagi are known in the country, and can be found only in elaborate tombs such as the famous one at the King’s Tomb on Salah a-Din Street in eastern Jerusalem.

The tomb was found on the slope of the hill, and not in the complex that Herod had prepared for his burial.  Some possibilities: 1) Herod ordered the location change in order to thwart tomb robbers (if so, he failed).  2) Herod’s subjects buried him here, defying the wishes of the king (as did Herod’s sister in ordering the leading men of the kingdom released before Herod’s order to kill them could be carried out).  3) Herod’s body was moved at a later time.  4) This isn’t Herod’s tomb.

On the last point, I would simply note that the basis for this “definite” identification is “a combination of the location, type of work at the tomb, the decorations, and pieces of the coffin.”  In other words, there is no inscription.  In order to make a convincing case, the workmanship of the tomb and coffin are going to have to be of the highest quality.  It is interesting that “location” is factored into the identification, as it seems that the location, not in the prepared burial place, would argue against the identification.  But of course, it is at the Herodium, and presumably, not just any wealthy citizen could be buried there.

I look forward to seeing photographs of the discoveries, and hope that soon the tomb area will be open to visitors.

Herodium with swimming pool and lower city in foreground
Update: Yahoo has the AP story with a nice slideshow showing the area of the excavation.
  1. Herod the Great was the only one known as “King Herod.” And he was never known as “Herod the Great.” His grandson tried to apply the title to himself, unsuccessfully.
  2. We have more information about Herod than about all other figures of antiquity, largely owing to Josephus’ detailed accounts. Josephus includes more negative material about Herod in Jewish Antiquities, written 10-15 years after The Jewish War.
  3. Herod married a Samaritan woman (Malthace), and two of her offspring inherited parts of the empire (Archelaus ruled Judea and Antipas was over Galilee and Perea).
  4. Herod had ten wives; he executed only one of them.
  5. Herod’s mother was a Nabatean or from an Arab tribe near the Nabateans. (More well known is the fact that his father was an Idumean.)
  6. Herod was initially ruler of four provinces: Judea, Galilee, Peraea, and Idumaea. In the course of his rule, Samaritis, Hulitis, Gaulanitis, Batanea, Auranitis, and Trachonitis were added to his kingdom.
  7. Though Herod built monumental works throughout the eastern Roman world (as far west as Greece), he apparently did not do significant construction in Idumea, where his father was from, or Galilee, where he initially ruled.
  8. The Tomb of the Patriarchs (Machpelah) in Hebron is believed to have been built by Herod, but no ancient source credits him with this building. The same is true for the structure at Mamre to the north of the tomb.
  9. Though no statues of Herod have been found in modern Israel, one has been discovered in modern Syria (in Sia).
  10. Herod built one temple for the Jews in Jerusalem.  He built three pagan temples elsewhere in his kingdom (Caesarea, Sebaste, Panias)

Inscription reading “of Herod,” from Eretz Israel museum, Tel Aviv

Haaretz has broken the story of the discovery of Herod’s tomb.  The excavating team has been working on it for weeks (or months) and managed to keep it a secret until the night before the press conference.  The length of the article may mislead as to what the writer has learned.  He reveals only one new fact: Herod’s tomb was discovered by Ehud Netzer between the upper and lower palaces of Herodium.  Everything else in the story is well-known background.

The main question I’ve been getting concerns the authenticity of the find.  On this, there is only one piece of relevant evidence at this time: the tomb was discovered by Ehud Netzer.  He is a highly respected archaeologist in Israel, and he’s been looking for the tomb for a long time.  I think that if he was one to jump to premature conclusions, he would have done so long ago.  Instead, he has proposed possibility after possibility and acknowledged coming up short.  I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t be making such an announcement without solid evidence.

Ehud Netzer is sometimes known as “Mr. Herod” because of his excavation of numerous Herodian sites, including Jericho (1973-87, 1998), Caesarea (1975-76, 1979), possible family tomb of Herod in Jerusalem (1977), Masada (1989), and Herodium (1970-present, with breaks).  Netzer is professor emeritus in the Department of Classical Archaeology at Hebrew University.

View of lower Herodium from upper palace 
Some new, unpublished BiblePlaces photos of Herodium can be viewed here