Herod’s tomb reported found
May 11,2007 00:00 by Bend_Weekly_News_Sources

A long search for Her­od the Great’s tomb has ended with the dis­cov­ery of re­mains of his gra­ve, sar­coph­a­gus and mau­so­le­um, ac­cord­ing to ar­chae­o­lo­gists.

Palestine’s Roman-appointed rul­er at the time of Je­sus’ birth, Her­od is said in the Bi­ble to have or­dered a slaugh­ter of ba­bies in or­der to be rid of the child. Al­though the tale is un­con­firmed, his­tor­i­cal sources por­tray him as hav­ing be­come blood­thirsty in these lat­er years of his reign, among oth­er things kill­ing three of his own chil­dren.

But Her­od, who ruled from 37 to 4 B.C., was al­so re­nowned for mon­u­men­tal build­ing pro­jects. These in­clud­ed the re­con­struc­tion of the Tem­ple in Je­ru­sa­lem, the pal­ace at Masada and his great­est pro­jec­t—a com­plex at Her­od­ium, south of Je­ru­sa­lem, said ar­chae­o­lo­gist Ehud Net­zer of the He­brew Uni­ver­si­ty of Je­ru­sa­lem.

The po­di­um, or base, of He­rod's tomb. (Cour­te­sy He­brew Uni­ver­si­ty of Je­ru­sa­lem)

The re­mains were un­earthed there, at Mount Her­o­di­um’s north­east­ern slope, Net­zer added.

Her­odium is the on­ly site that car­ries Her­od’s name and is where he chose to be bur­ied and to me­mo­ri­al­ize him­self, said Net­zer, who con­ducted the re­search with col­leagues and with the par­ti­ci­pa­tion of lo­cal Bedouins. 

The team reached the bur­i­al site via a mon­u­men­tal stair­way lead­ing to the hill­side and built, they said, for Her­od’s ex­trav­a­gant fu­ner­al pro­ces­sion. Ex­ca­va­tions on the slope of the moun­tain, topped by a famed com­plex of a pal­ace, a for­tress and a mon­u­ment, be­gan last Au­gust.

The lo­ca­tion, the unique na­ture of the find­ings and the his­tor­i­cal rec­ord leave no doubt that this was Her­od’s bur­i­al site, Net­zer said. But the mau­so­le­um it­self was al­most to­tal­ly dis­man­tled in an­cient times, leav­ing on­ly part of its stur­dy po­di­um, or base.

Among the ru­ins were a group of dec­o­rat­ed urns used to store ash­es and chunks of a large, dec­o­rat­ed sar­coph­a­gus of red­dish lime­stone and be­lieved to be Her­od’s own, the re­search­ers said. No­ta­bly, this was bro­ken in­to hun­dreds of pieces, no doubt de­lib­er­ate­ly, ac­cord­ing to Net­zer and col­leagues.

Jew­ish rebels ap­par­ent­ly de­stroyed the mon­u­ment in the years 66-72 dur­ing the first Jew­ish re­volt against the Ro­mans, Net­zer said. That is when rebels took over the site, ac­cord­ing to the con­tem­po­rary his­to­ri­an Jo­se­phus, who also led that up­ris­ing. The rebels were known for their ha­tred of Her­od and all he stood for, as what they saw as a pup­pet rul­er for the Ro­mans, though Her­od saw him­self as a Jew.

Jo­se­phus de­scribed Her­od’s fu­ner­al as mag­nif­i­cent, writ­ing: “The bier was of sol­id gold, stud­ded with pre­cious stones, and had a co­vering of pur­ple, em­broi­dered with var­i­ous col­ors; on this lay the body en­vel­oped in pur­ple robe, a di­a­dem en­cir­cling the head and sur­mounted by a crown of gold, the scep­ter be­side his right hand.”