One more archaeological mystery solved…

Submitted by Sammy Smith (


Overhead satellite view of Herodion/Herodium in screen grab from Google Earth, a free program available via the Internet.

Archaeology abounds in mysteries, a few solved and many, many unsolved.

One of the latter has been the location of Biblical King Herod’s tomb. Historical records introduce details that we would not know if all we had were archaeological data, and thus records—for example, manuscripts, diaries and bureaucratic archives—indicate real events and places that also become archaeological mysteries when we seek to substantiate them.

The cover story of the July 2009 issue of Smithsonian magazine discusses the search for Herod’s tomb, assumed from records to be in or around Herod’s fortified mountain-top palace, known variously as Herodion, Herodium, and Jabal al-Fraidees (the latter in Arabic). Barbara Krieger, author of the Smithsonian article, notes:

Ongoing excavations…reveal the impressive variety of facilities that Herod built at his desert retreat, including a royal theater that accommodated some 450 spectators.

In May 2007, an archaeological team headed by Professor Ehud Netzer of Hebrew University “discovered hundreds of red limestone fragments buried in the mountainside”—not in the palace at the top of the mountain.

Reassembling some of the pieces, Netzer concluded they were all that remained of a sarcophagus more than eight feet long with a gabled cover. The high quality of the craftsmanship suggested the sarcophagus was fit for a king. Plus, the extent of the fragmentation suggested that people had deliberately smashed it—a plausible outcome for the hated monarch’s resting place. Based on coins and other items found nearby, Netzer surmises that the desecration occurred during the first Jewish revolt against the Romans, from A.D. 66 to 73.

Read the Smithsonian article by clicking here.

Click here to read the May 2007 article announcing the find by ScienceDaily.

Read the Wikipedia entry on this dramatic hilltop archaeological site by clicking here.

Where to find it