BAR is giving $50,000 in grants to professional archaeological excavations in Israel. How that came to be has got to be one of the strangest stories in archaeological history.
It all began with a dear friend, the world’s leading expert on archaeology related to Herod the Great, king of Judea. For 35 years Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem had been searching for Herod’s tomb. We know where Herod was buried; the Jewish historian Josephus tells us: Herodium. But where at Herodium? Finally, Ehud found a mausoleum on the side of Herodium that contained several sarcophagi. Ehud thought this mausoleum was Herod’s tomb and that one of the sarcophagi belonged to him. Then tragedy struck. A wooden railing at Herodium against which Ehud leaned gave way, and he fell to his death.a
A number of prominent archaeologists doubted that this mausoleum had belonged to King Herod. And they seemed convincing to me. One theory is that Herod was in fact interred not on the side of the mountain but in a large tower at the site. Although the tower appears to be solid, there is a possibility that it contains, or did contain, cavities or chambers.b