Shmuel Browns was at the Herodium a few days ago and had a chance to talk with archaeologists excavating the staircase area. He shares what he learned as well as some hastily-taken photos on his blog.

If you missed it, Shmuel also has some rare images of the VIP box of Herodium’s theater. Check those out here.

Thanks, Shmuel, for sharing the news and photos! Hopefully the area will be open to the public before too long.


The more you learn, the more you discover how little you know. That seems to be the story at Herodium, as the uncovering of a monumental entrance suggests a more complicated building history than previously understood. From a press release of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem:

Archaeologists from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology have discovered a monumental entryway to the Herodian Hilltop Palace at the Herodium National Park. The unique complex was uncovered during excavations by The Herodium Expedition in Memory of Ehud Netzer over the past year, as part of a project to develop the site for tourism.
The main feature of the entryway is an impressive corridor with a complex system of arches spanning its width on three separate levels. These arches buttressed the corridor’s massive side-walls, allowing the King and his entourage direct passage into the Palace Courtyard. Thanks to the supporting arches, the 20-meter long and 6-meter wide corridor has been preserved to a height of 20 meters.
The Hebrew University archaeologists — Roi Porat, Yakov Kalman and Rachel Chachy — suggest that the corridor was built as part of Herod’s plan to turn Herodium into a massive artificial volcano-shaped hill, a vast and impressive monument designed to commemorate the architect-King.
Surprisingly, during the course of the excavations, it became evident that the arched corridor was never actually in use, as prior to its completion it became redundant. This appears to have happened when Herod, aware of his impending death, decided to convert the whole hilltop complex into a massive memorial mound, a royal burial monument on an epic scale.
Whatever the case, the corridor was back-filled during the construction of the massive artificial hill at the end of Herod’s reign. The upper section of a new monumental stairway stretching from the hill’s base to its peak, constructed during the course of this building phase, appears to have been built over it.
The excavators point out that not only was the arched corridor covered over in the course of the construction of the hill-monument, but also all the structures earlier built by Herod on the hill’s slopes, including the Royal Theater uncovered by the expedition in 2008, while still led by Prof. Ehud Netzer, since deceased.

The press release continues with more discussion of the site history as well as plans to allow visitors access to all of the new discoveries. Photos are available here.

Monumental entrance to Herodium
Photo credit: The Herodium Expedition at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Joseph Patrich and Benny Arubas offer four reasons against identifying the mausoleum discovered at the Herodium with the tomb of Herod. Unfortunately, they do not suggest an alternative identification.

Some IAA photos of the Byzantine monastery uncovered near Beth Shemesh are available for download. [link has expired]

The oldest known Jewish prayer book just went on display at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

3 Sea of Galilee Sites You’ll Pass But May Not See. Before you click, see if you can guess the three.

Ferrell Jenkins looks at two outstanding architectural remains in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin: the Miletus Market Gate and the Altar of Zeus.

Leon Mauldin has two illustrated posts about the two Temple boundary inscriptions: the complete one on display in Istanbul and the fragment in the Israel Museum.

The Baptist Press runs a story on the Bronze Age water system of Gezer.

Wheaton’s Archaeology Lecture Series 2014-2015 has two lectures remaining.

An electronic edition of supplementary volume of The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological 
Excavations in the Holy Land is now available to all members of the BAS Library.

Subscriptions are now available to the Loeb Classical Library, but the prices aren’t cheap and you must inquire by email.

In stock on Monday: the first volume of the Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity, edited by Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson ($20).

HT: Joseph Lauer

Byzantine monastery near Beth Shemesh
Photo by Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The world’s largest Ark of the Covenant has been donated to Israel.

Leen Ritmeyer discusses the little-known Jewish excavation underneath the Temple Mount.

As for the recent challenge to the identification of Herod’s tomb at the Herodium, Ritmeyer sides with Netzer.

Have you been to Joseph’s tomb at Shechem? Ferrell Jenkins gives the biblical significance and a recent photo.

The Ephraim of Jesus’ day is modern Taybeh. There are more reasons to visit than ever before.

The “most popular photo” at The Bible and Interpretation is one our sunset shots over the Sea of

Tomb of Joseph, Nablous, ef0131
Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem
Photo source

Two former students of Ehud Netzer are disputing their teacher’s claim that he discovered Herod’s tomb at the Herodium. Prof. Joseph Patrich and Benjamin Arubas, both of Hebrew University, presented a paper yesterday in which they argued that the hillside shrine may have served Herod’s family but not the king himself.

They argue that the newly discovered tomb could not have been built for King Herod:

  • The tomb is too modest for one who considered himself the greatest king.
  • The plaza next to the tomb was too small to accommodate the large crowd that Josephus describes.
  • The later construction of the monumental staircase does not reflect the careful planning characteristic of Herod.

Nir Hasson provides a detailed summary in Haaretz of the presentation given at the seventh annual “Innovations in Archaeology in Jerusalem and the Surrounding Area” conference. The article also includes some counter-arguments by Netzer’s successor Roi Porat. I find the latter more convincing.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Herodium model tomb of Herod, tb042512613
Replica of Herod’s mausoleum at Herodium

If you want to see more of the Herod exhibit than the Israel Museum put online, you can watch a 13-minute video tour. The audio is in German, but everyone can get a feel for the displays.

A blogger on Forbes gives some of the tax history of the first four Dead Sea Scrolls.

If you have missed Chris McKinny’s recent series Secret Places, he will be back. He has been teaching an intensive course in Israel and is now supervising excavations at Tel Burna. You can follow the results there as he and others post on the day’s finds, beginning with Day 1 and Day 2.

It’s never occurred to me that the Hinnom Valley has been redeemed, but Wayne Stiles makes a case.

Luke Chandler’s blog hosts the world premiere of a new short film titled “Khirbet Qeiyafa: A Fortified City in the Kingdom of Judah.”

Some tourists are starting to return to Greece as the rioting subsides and the prices go down.

In fact, you can now book a tour of Greece with the Associates for Biblical Research. The 12-day trip in March 2014 will be led by Gordon Franz. The cost is $3199.

A Chinese tourist who left his mark on an Egyptian temple got in trouble.

Israel Today has a 2-minute video tour of Jaffa (biblical Joppa).

HT: BibleX, Alexander Schick

Corinth plain and excavations from Acrocorinth, tb050803135
Plain of Corinth from Acrocorinth
Photo from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands