Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Herod's broken sarcophagus and tomb located

Archaeologists from Jerusalem's Hebrew University say that they have finally located the long-missing tomb and the deliberately destroyed sarcophagus of King Herod the Great, who is blamed by tradition for the massacre of the Holy Innocents.

Christian Today reports that the tomb was found at Mount Herodium by Professor Ehud Netzer from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Archaeology.

The grave, sarcophagus and mausoleum were found on Mount Herodium's northeastern slope. The location and unique nature of the findings, as well as the historical record, leave no doubt that this was Herod's burial site, Professor Netzer told reporters.

The sarcophagus was broken into hundreds of pieces, no doubt deliberatelyChristian Today says.

This activity, including the destruction of the monument, apparently took place in the years 66-72 CE during the first Jewish revolt against the Romans, while Jewish rebels took hold of the site, according to Josephus and the archaeological evidence.

The rebels were known for their hatred of Herod and all that he stood for, as a "puppet ruler" for the Romans.

The Age reports that if confirmed, the tomb's discovery at the palace complex of Herodium, 12 kilometres south-east of Jerusalem, in the occupied West Bank, could be one of the most significant finds in Middle-Eastern archaeology in many years.

The Jewish ruler of the Roman client state of Judea, Herod is believed to have played a key role in the developments of both the Judaic and Christian faiths at a time of spiritual and military turmoil.

As procurator of Judea, he is credited with a huge building program, including the reconstruction and expansion of the second Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah, in Jerusalem, the exposed remnant of which - the Western Wall - is today revered as the holiest site in Judaism.

Herod became the ruler of the Holy Land under the Romans around 74 BC. Christian tradition has it that Herod was a wicked king who, advised by soothsayers of the advent of the Messiah, ordered the massacre of all newborn children in Bethlehem, from which the baby Jesus narrowly escaped.

According to the Gospels, it was Herod's son, Herod Antipas, who mocked Jesus after his arrest in Jerusalem and then sent him back to Pontius Pilate for trial and execution.

The search for Herod's tomb actively began 30 years ago. Archaeologists have long assumed that Herod was buried at Herodium, Haaretz says, but decades of excavations failed to turn up the site until now. The first century historian Josephus Flavius described the tomb and Herod's funeral procession.