King Herod’s grave uncovered in hilltop fortress

King Herod's grave uncovered in hilltop fortress

King Herod’s grave uncovered in hilltop fortress

The grave of King Herod the Great, the ruler of Jerusalem who tried to kill Jesus soon after its birth, was uncovered by archaeologists.

Professor Ehud Netzer, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said after a 35-year search he had finally located the last resting place for the king in Herodium, the Herod’s fortified on a hilltop outside Jerusalem.

Herod built an elaborate palace fortress on the 300-foot mountain, Herodium, to commemorate his victory in a crucial battle.

“This is very significant because the importance of Herod’s to Judaism and Christianity and the number of buildings he left behind,” he said.

Herod is best known for the Slaughter of the Innocents, which is recounted in the Gospel According To Matthew.

On learning of the birth of Jesus, Herod instructed the three wise men to find Jesus so he could also worship him.

The wise men realised that Herod meant to kill Jesus and warned Joseph to flee with his family.

When Herod discovered that he had been tricked, he ordered the killing of all boys under the age of two to protect himself from the new “king”.

Historians and archaeologists believed that Herod was buried close to the hilltop fortress he built on a man-made mountain near Bethlehem but despite decades of excavation the site has never been located.

Around 30 years ago, archaeologists found the estate that Herod built for his grave on the slopes below the fort.

The king built two monuments, a ritual bath and a long narrow road in preparation for his death. Prof Netzer followed a careful trail of clues before discovering Herod’s mausoleum three weeks ago.

Prof Netzer believes that Herod originally intended to be interred on the estate but changed his mind in old age and decided to be buried further up the hillside.

He discovered a 6.5m-wide staircase that ascended the mountain and led to the remains of the mausoleum – the podium of the sarcophagus and the broken remains of the main structure.

Around the site were scattered hundreds or pieces of stone that made up a 2.5m-long sarcophagus, which was decorated with rosettes. Prof Netzer said that the quality of the sarcophagus meant it could only have been made for Herod. There were no signs of bones at the site.

Prof Netzer said that the sarcophagus had been deliberately destroyed, probably by Jews rebelling against Rome in 66AD, who would have regarded Herod as a puppet of the Romans.

Herod was appointed King of the Jews by the Roman senate and he conquered Judea in 37BC. During his 34-year reign he executed several members of his immediate family to preserve his rule.

He was a prosperous ruler, building forts that can be seen today at Caeseria, Masada and Herodium. Herod also greatly expanded the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, the remains of which include the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site.

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