Washington, Nov 20 : Excavations at Herodium, an area close to Jerusalem, have provided archaeologists with further assurances that this was indeed the site of Herod's grave, who was the Roman-appointed king of Judea from 37 to 4 B.C.E.
Herod was renowned for his many monumental building projects, including the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the palace at Masada, the harbor and city of Caesarea, as well as the palatial complex at Herodium, 15 kilometers south of Jerusalem.
On the basis of a study of the architectural elements uncovered at the site, researchers have been able to determine that the mausoleum, among the remains of which Herod's sarcophagus was found, was a lavish two-story structure with a concave-conical roof, about 25 meters high, a structure fully appropriate to Herod's status and taste.
The excavations there have also yielded many fragments of two additional sarcophagi, which the researchers estimate to have been members of Herod's family.
The mausoleum, according to Professor Ehud Netzer, director of the excavations, was deliberately destroyed by the Jewish rebels who occupied the site during the First Jewish Revolt against the Romans, which started in about 66 C.E.
Also found in the latest excavations are the remains of an intimate theater just below and to the west of the mausoleum, with seats for some 650 to 750 spectators, and a loggia (a kind of VIP viewing and hospitality room), located at the top of the theater seats and decorated with wall paintings and plaster moldings in a style that has not been seen thus far in Israel.
The style is known to have existed in Rome and Campania in Italy and is dateable between 15 and 10 B.C.E.
So far, only one wall painting scene has been found intact, though there are traces of others in the room. .
According to Professor Netzer, the dating of the wall paintings makes it reasonable to assume that the construction of the theater might be linked to Roman general and politician Marcus Agrippa's visit to Herodium in 15 B.C.E.
Netzer said that Herodium would never have been built had it not been for Herod's known determination, made at the beginning of his career, to be buried in this isolated, arid area.
He undoubtedly personally chose the exact location for his mausoleum since it overlooks Jerusalem and its surroundings, Netzer suggested.
This led to his decision to make the entire complex the "crowning glory" of his remarkable building career and to name it after himself.