In case you haven't heard yet, a team led by Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) has uncovered what they believe to be the tomb of Herod the Great at Mount Herodium. The discovery is the culmination of a 35 year hunt for the tomb of the man dubbed by the Romans "The King of the Jews", and the find includes Herod's grave, sarcophagus and mausoleum.
Herodium, a palace fortress on the edge of the Judean desert, had long been touted as the likely location for the tomb. The process of discovering it, however, appears to have been somewhat more complicated than they originally imagined. Until 2006 the hunt for the tomb had focussed on the "Tomb Estate" in Lower Herodium, but after over 30 years with no success Netzer's team switched their attention to inside of the slope of Mount Herodium. The hill's volcano-type shape is due to an artificial cone towards the top and it appears that it was there that Herod was buried.
It appears that Herod originally intended to be buried in the grand Tomb Estate, but later changed his mind. If his intention in so doing was to prevent his tomb being sacked following his death, his change of plan was wasted. Excavations have found the mausoleum to have been dismantled, and the sarcophagus to have been smashed into many pieces, apparently in ancient times. I imagine another possibility might be that Herod never changed his plans, but that his successor (or indeed the Romans) buried him in this location instead to affect the way he was remembered by future generations.
The various Biblioblogs have been buzzing with news of this one. I first heard about it on NT Gateway, but Mark Goodacre has left the spade work to others on this occasion. Only too happy to take up the challenge, Tyler Williams has four posts on the subject: his initial post quoting the Israeli newspaper Haaretz which broke the story; Extensive excerpts from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem press release; a brief pointer to Todd Bolen's excellent King Herod: Ten Things You Didn’t Know; and finally three pictures courtesy of Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Elsewhere, Jim West updated his initial post several times and has since added links to more photos. Finally, I wrote a brief and simple piece on this story for rejesus.
By the way, couldn't resist using the photo above taken from King of Kings (1961) one of the few films that actually shows Herod's death.
Labels: King of Kings