Herod's Tomb: Press Conference

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.

8 thoughts on “Herod's Tomb: Press Conference

  1. Hi Todd,

    We’ve got the images already on our Sites & Photos news section. Feel free to go check them out, Hebrew U has done a great job getting these out quickly.


  2. Hi Todd,
    Thanks for the update! We haven’t receive much information about Herods Tomb here in Denmark, I have not seen anything on television either, a shame since many here find it very interesting!
    I hope you get to visit the tomb area very soon.
    Btw. Is it very difficult for an archaeologist to get permission to dig?

  3. Bent1964 – that’s a difficult question to answer. It’s like asking if it is difficult to do surgery – it depends on many factors. It’s not difficult if you are a professional archaeologist, but it is difficult to become one. You have to have your papers in order, you have to have adequate funding, etc.

  4. Hi Todd,
    Thanks for your information. I was priviledged to be able to enter the site of Herod’s Tomb Yesterday (Sept. 21, 2008). The site is open for public from a distance. But we (3 people) were granted by on site-archaeologists to enter the site. It is still being excavated. Unfortunately, pictures I took yesterday cannot be publicized. Just wait for the official publication by the archaeologists.

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