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According to Josephus, Herod the Great was buried at Herodium, a massive mound that towers over the Judean desert about eight miles south of Jerusalem. The fact that Herod named the site after himself suggests that he intended that it serve as his final resting place (Magness 2001: 43) and so scholars have accepted Josephus' testimony despite the fact that 35 years of excavation at the site had failed to locate any trace of a tomb — that is, until now.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Monday, May 7, that Ehud Netzer of The Hebrew University in Jerusalem and his team had discovered the tomb of Herod the Great, the King of the Jews under the Romans (r. 37 B.C.E. - 4 B.C.E.). The excavation team found pieces of a limestone sarcophagus whose location and ornate floral decoration suggest that it belonged to Herod.

The Herodium was the location of a palace and fortress built by Herod to commemorate his victory over the Parthians and Hasmoneans in 40 B.C.E. and was destroyed by Roman forces in 71 C.E. Scholars have debated the location of the tomb, namely, whether it would be found in the Upper Herodium containing the palace rooms at the top of the mountain (Magness 2001) or in the Lower Herodium, on the northern side of the mountain (Netzer 1999: 709-11). The sarcophagus and mausoleum were found more than a month ago on Mount Herodium's northeastern slope at the end of an ancient staircase leading up to the hilltop, according to Netzer. The sarcophagus had apparently been deliberately broken into hundreds of pieces, probably during the first Jewish revolt against the Romans. The bones too may have been removed at that time. No inscription identifyiing the owner of the sarcophagus has been found.

The SBL Forum will continue to provide updates as the story unfolds.

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Magness, Jodi, "Where is Herod's Tomb at Herodium?," BASOR 322 (2001): 43-46.

Netzer, Ehud, Die Paläste der Hasmonäer und Herodes' des Grossen (Mainz am Rhein: von Zabern, 1999).

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Citation: , " Herod's Tomb Discovered at Herodium," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited May 2007]. Online:


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