King Herod's ancient tomb 'discovered' by archaeologist

8th May 2007
Daily Mail

By Matthew Kalman in JERUSALEM and Duncan Robertson

The tomb of King Herod I, who reigned over Judea and was infamous for slaughtering all male babies in Bethlehem, has been found

Jewish king Herod I takes Jerusalem, 36 BC

The tomb of King Herod, the legendary Jewish monarch who ruled at the time of Jesus, has been discovered in one of his palaces, 2,000 years after his death.

Herod the Great ruled the ancient kingdom of Judea from 37BC and became a monstrous figure throughout the Christian world because of his depiction in Bible, which tells how he ordered the "Slaughter of the Innocents".
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According the Nativity story in the Gospel of St Matthew, he was a proud and ruthless king, prepared to hold on to power at any cost.

After being told by soothsayers that the birth of a new King of the Jews was imminent, he ordered the massacre of all newborns in Bethlehem to kill off the threat to his authority.

Other records do not mention the massacre and many historians mark King Herod out as a hugely successful ruler who built lavish palaces, seaports, aqueducts and temples, including the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and the vast seaport complex and racing track at Caesaria.

The massive stones of the outer wall of Herod's Temple Mount still stand today in the Old City of Jerusalem, where they are known as the Western Wall.

He also constructed an elegant winter palace on the slope of Masada, a striking mountain overlooking the Dead Sea where Jewish forces held out for a year against three Roman legions.

An aerial view of Herodium

His grave was discovered by a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Herodion, a stunning, volcano-shaped desert fortress five miles southeast of Bethlehem.

Ehud Netzer and his team concluded the tomb they unearthed, estimated to have been about 2.5 meters (8 feet) long, was Herod's because of its lavish design. One of the limestone remnants possessed a flower-like pattern. No bones were found.

"It was not a sarcophagus that rolled around on the streets, was common, or which anyone could afford during the era," Netzer said.

Herodion, a series of underground tunnels hewn out of a natural mountain and topped with a magnificent palace complete with bathhouses, is regarded as one of the most astonishing engineering feats of the ancient world.

Professor Ehud Netzer showing a red stone decorated with a rosette that is part of his discovery of the Tomb of Herod

Herod was descended from the Edomites, a tribe of ancient enemies of the Jews who converted to Judaism in about 120BC.

When Palestine was under Roman rule, his father became chief minister of Judea and made Herod governor of Galilee when he was just 25 years old.

After the assassination of Julius Caesar, Herod became a protégé of Mark Antony and Caesar's nephew Octavian.

Map showing the ancient kingdom of Judah (Judea)

In 39BC, Herod invaded Judea to win the country back for the Romans and was made king.

The location of Herod's grave has long been a mystery among archeologists.

The Roman historian Josephus, who is generally reliable, wrote that herod was buried at Herodion, but the grave was never found until now.

It seemed unlikely that a monarch who spent such huge sums on erecting monuments and palaces which have lasted for centuries, did not plan his own colossal tomb.

The announcement of the discovery was made yesterday at the Hebrew University.


King Herod is renowned among archaeologists for his monumental building projects.

He is best known for his alleged role in the'Massacre of the Innocents', an account of which is given in Chapter 2 of the Gospel according to Matthew.

Professor Netzer's interest in Herodian architecture began in 1963, during an expedition in Masada.

He has been known to uncover several other Herodian structures across Israel through his work.

His search for King Herod the Great's tomb began more than 30 years ago in 1972.

Excavations on the slope of Mount Herodium where the tomb was uncovered bagan in April last year.