The current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review includes the fascinating firsthand account of how the late Ehud Netzer discovered the tomb of King Herod.  The entire article is available for free online. 

During the 38 years since I began working at Herodium, Herod’s luxurious desert retreat, this architectural masterpiece has yielded many treasures, but none more exciting than the 2007 discovery of Herod’s elusive tomb. Some still question this identification, but more recent discoveries confirm my initial conclusion. Today, I have no doubt of it. […] In the summer of 2006, we turned our attention to the slope of the hill, in the vicinity of the monumental stairway that ran up the hill from Lower Herodium to the palace/fortress of Upper Herodium. We first followed an ancient wall along the northeastern slope, hoping that it would lead us to the burial place (a cave?) at the bottom of the round eastern tower. When no clue was found here, in the spring of 2007 we returned to the vicinity of the monumental stairway and slowly we began to reveal some fragments of reddish stone along the northeastern slope that appeared to be from an elegant sarcophagus. Following these stones, we were finally led to the discovery of Herod’s mausoleum. […] Not long after we announced the discovery of Herod’s tomb in 2007, my good friend British architectural historian David Jacobson expressed his doubts, noting the lack of any inscriptional identification of the remains. Since then, we have finished digging the whole area around the monument, exposing more of its architectural elements. This has enabled our capable architect-archaeologist Rachel Chachy to draw a detailed reconstruction of the mausoleum. If the same remains had been found near Jerusalem, it might have been risky to identify the monument as belonging to Herod. But this is Herodium, Herod’s personal monument, named for himself—indeed, the only one. And Josephus has told us Herod was buried here. There can be little question who was buried here. The absence of any inscription should not detract from this conclusion. […] Duane Roller, professor emeritus at the Ohio State University, is another doubter. A distinguished Roman historian, Roller concedes that the tomb we have found belonged to someone of noble lineage, but he remains convinced that Herod lies at the solid base of the east tower on the summit.

The well-illustrated article is a must-read before your next visit.  If you want to read more about Herod and his construction projects, I would highly recommend Herod: King of the Jews and Friend of the Romans, by Peter Richardson as well as The Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder, by Ehud Netzer.


Arutz-7 identifies three of the newly designated sites as Umm el-Qanatir, Gamla, and the Herodium.

A Cabinet-level committee has added 16 new national heritage sites, including two in the Golan Heights and Herod’s tomb in Gush Etzion. Foreign media immediately tried to turn the decision into a political act. 
Also on the list were two archeological sites in the Golan Heights and one in the Judean Hills, south of Jerusalem. All three are familiar to millions of tourists, but at least one foreign news agency implied that their inclusion on the list was a political decision because they are located in areas that are ”occupied.”
The Golan Heights have been a legal part of Israel for 30 years, but most international media still refer to it as “the occupied Golan.” One of the sites is Umm el-Kanitar, where archaeological excavations have revealed a Roman-era Jewish city and synagogue.
The other is on Gamla, a camel hump-shaped hill in the Golan that includes the remains of an ancient Jewish city and which was the site of the 1st century CE Jewish revolt against Roman conquerors. Gamla is a symbol of heroism for the modern State of Israel.
A third site is Herodian, the site of Herod’s palace in eastern Gush Etzion and a popular site for foreign tourists as well as Israelis.

The full article is here.

UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post story includes additional details.


Israeli tour guide Shmuel Browns has done some investigation and come to the conclusion that the monumental building at the Herodium was a nymphaeum.  He has posted his research, with numerous illustrations, here

You may recall that archaeologist Ehud Netzer once proposed that this structure was Herod’s tomb. 

Since the location of the burial place on the slope of the mountain, the question is open once again, and Browns’ proposal seems like the right one.  It would be just like Herod to construct a palace in the wilderness complete with swimming pool and monumental fountain.


Ehud Netzer, an Israeli archaeologist renowned for his excavations of projects of King Herod, has passed away in Jerusalem following a fall at Herodium a couple of days ago.  Limited details are posted at the blogs of Jim West, Menachem Mendel, and Aren Maeir, as well as the Jerusalem Post

His fall was reported today in the Hebrew press here, here, and here. Netzer excavated at Herodium, Masada, Caesarea, Jericho, and in Jerusalem.  His recent work, The Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder, is an excellent survey that makes available to the public the decades of his research.  His death is a great loss to many.  May his family and friends be comforted.

HT: Joe Lauer


National Geographic has a beautiful seven-shot photo gallery of King Herod’s tomb, including good information about the recent discoveries.  The Book and the Spade discusses the tomb in its current radio broadcast (direct link from this page).

Leon Mauldin has posted a beautiful aerial photograph of Aphek/Antipatris

No, I didn’t watch the 60 Minutes piece on the excavations in the City of David.  After a while, dishonest reporting is no longer even entertaining.

The Jerusalem Post has a short article on the stones of Jerusalem, including mention of the British
Mandate law requiring that buildings in the city be faced with it.

Logos 4 was released a year ago, but I waited until recently before installing it on my computer.  I’ll add my voice to the chorus praising the program.  If you didn’t already know, each of the base packages includes a module entitled “BiblePlaces.com Image Library,” which features 350 selected photographs from our collection.

The new Holman Christian Standard Bible Study Bible arrived in the mail Saturday.  I am impressed by the attractiveness of the pages (full color) and the selection of writers for the notes.  I like the appropriately chosen photos of biblical sites and artifacts, and I was usually pleased with what was written about the controversial issues I checked.  Apparently the whole Bible is online at mystudybible.com, but it was a bit slow when I tried.

Last week my family welcomed another son into our home.  He missed the 10-10-10 date by one day, but otherwise he is perfect.


From the Jerusalem Post:

A royal box built at the upper level of King Herod’s private theater at Herodium has been fully unveiled in recent excavations at the archaeological site, providing a further indication of the luxurious lifestyle favored by the well-known Jewish monarch, the Hebrew University announced in a statement released Tuesday.
The theater, first revealed in 2008, is located halfway up the hill near Herod’s mausoleum, whose exposure in 2007 aroused worldwide attention. The highly decorated, fairly small theater was built in approximately 15 BCE, which was the year of the visit of Roman leader Marcus Agrippa to Judea, Emperor Augustus’s right-hand man, according to Prof.  Nezter, who has been assisted in the excavations by Yakov Kalman, Roi Porath and Rachel Chachy.
The royal box (measuring eight by seven meters and about six meters high) is the central space among a group of rooms attached to the upper part of the theater’s structure. This impressive room likely hosted the king, his close friends and family members during performances in the theater and was fully open facing the stage.
Its back and side walls are adorned with an elaborate scheme of wall paintings and plaster moldings in a style that has not been seen thus far in Israel; yet, this style is known to have existed in Rome and Campania in Italy during those years. This work, therefore, was probably executed by Italian artists, perhaps sent by Marcus Agrippa, who a year before his visit to Judea met Herod on the famous Greek island of Lesbos, said Netzer.

The article continues here.  A similar story is posted at China Daily. For previous stories on Herod’s tomb, see here.  The Smithsonian has a gallery of a dozen photos of the Herodium, the last two of which (11, 12) show the most recent excavations.

HT: Joe Lauer

Herodium theater, tb010210567

Herodium theater