- Title: VARIOUS: Israeli archaeologists uncover King Herod's tomb
- Date: 8th May 2007
- Summary: DECORATED PIECE OF STONE AT EXCAVATION SITE STONE AND ROCK AT EXCAVATION SITE STONE BLOCKS IN EXCAVATION SITE
- Embargoed: 23rd May 2007 13:00
- Topics: History,Religion
- Reuters ID: LVAC6Z6MJTZL7CW07C0W4B4GEWZC
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- Story Text: An Israeli university professor announces that the grave and tomb of King Herod, the Roman empire's "king of the Jews", has been found. After decades of searching, archaeologists in Jerusalem have announced that they have discovered the grave and tomb of Herod the Great, the Roman empire's' "king of the Jews" in ancient Judea.
Academics at Hebrew University said at a news conference on Tuesday (May 8) that the discovery was made at Herodium, where Herod's hilltop fortress palace once stood about 12 km (7 miles) from the holy city where he had rebuilt and expanded the Jewish Temple.
Professor Ehud Netzer, leader of the excavations at Herodium since 1972, said that after decades of research and excavation, he realised he was close to the tomb when they found pieces of an ornate sarcophagus.
"This is, I can say, a monumental sarcophagus. There is only one or two of its kind found so far. It's not every rich Jew or citizen of this time could afford himself. It's really a royal one," he told the news conference.
Earlier digs had focused on other parts of Herodium, including a "tomb estate", remnants of two buildings and a large ritual bath, that originally had been chosen as a burial site.
Netzer and his team concluded the tomb they unearthed, estimated to have been about 2.5 metres (more than 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.
Yaacov Kalman, the field manager for the excavation, told a Reuters reporter that Herod's tomb had been damaged on purpose. He said: "It's all fractured. Also the building, the masonry, was all fractured and broken. So, it's intentionally broken. We're 100 percent sure."
Kalman explained the historical importance of Herod, saying: "We know Herod was the last king of Judea, and he was living in a critical time for our -- for Judaism, for the Jewish people, and also for the Christianity. That's the birth of Christianity -- that period."
In the New Testament of the Bible, the Gospel according to Matthew says Herod ordered the "Massacre of the Innocents," the killing of all young male children in Jesus's birthplace of Bethlehem, out of fear that he would lose his throne to a new "king of the Jews."
According to Matthew, Joseph and Mary fled with Jesus to Egypt to escape the slaughter.
The Roman senate appointed Herod "king of the Jews" in approximately 40 BC. According to the ancient Jewish historian Falavius Josephus, Herod died in 4 BC.
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