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from the trenches
Herod's Tomb Discovered? Volume 60 Number 4, July/August 2007
by Ari Rabinovitch

Israeli archaeologists say they have discovered the tomb of King Herod the Great, who ruled the Holy Land around the time of Jesus' birth. Though much of the tomb was destroyed in ancient times, "I'm without a doubt convinced this is Herod's tomb," says Hebrew University archaeologist Ehud Netzer. "We found his sarcophagus."

Herod reigned as the king of Judea from 37 B.C. until his death in 4 B.C. He was renowned for his vast building projects—including the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem—and infamous for his ruthlessness. The Gospel of Matthew says Herod tried to kill the newborn Jesus by ordering the slaughter of all male infants in Bethlehem, forcing Jesus' family to flee to Egypt.

Netzer began searching for Herod's tomb 35 years ago at the king's summer castle, known as Herodium, located in an Israeli-controlled area of the West Bank. Herodium is a man-made hill and fortress built around 23 B.C. The team discovered the tomb at the end of an ancient staircase leading up the hill. Other scholars are skeptical that the tomb belonged to Herod. "From what I've seen, there is no doubt that we're talking about a tomb from the Herodian period," says University of Haifa archaeologist Arthur Segal. "But there was no inscription. It could have been from a family member or anyone important. There is no definite proof that it is Herod's tomb."

© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America