Ehud Netzer om Herodes» grav

Herodes den store si grav blei, som tidlegare omtalt, funne på Herodion tidlegare i år (sjå her). Utgangspunktet for leitinga har vore dei skriftlege kjeldene (Josefus) og det store bygningskomplekset som ligg ute i ørkenen sør for Jerusalem.

Josefus skriv:

Han sparte ingenting når det gjaldt farens begravelse. Katafalken var av gull med innlagte edelsteiner, og legemet var kledt i fiolett. En gullkrone stod på hans hode, og han hadde et septer i sin høyre hånd. Omkring katafalken marsjerte Herodes´sønner og hans tallrike slektninger. De ble fulgt av vaktene, fremmede tropper og hæren. Foran dem gikk hærførerne og offiserene. Fem hundre tjenere som bar velluktende urter, fulgte etter i toget mot Herodion der begravelsen fant sted. (Sitert frå Paul L Maier: Josefus hovedverk s 256).

Etter fleire års leiting kunne den israelske arkeologen Ehud Netzer 8. mai i år kunngjera at grava var funnen i restane av eit mausoleum i det øvre Herodion. Teamet som har arbeidd på staden, har gått ut frå at han var gravlagt ein stad på det nedre Herodion, og først for omlag eit år sidan begynte ein å sjå etter kor grava kunne liggja viss den låg i den øvre delen av det enorme anlegget.

Her kan du lesa eit ferskt intervju med Ehud Netzer om det interessante gravfunnet.

Radio Singapore International:

This week in Frontiers, I speak to the archaeologist who recently discovered the burial place of Herod, Roman appointed ruler of Judea from 37 to 4BC. Stay tuned to find out more with me, Loretta Foo.

Herod was an infamous Biblical figure. He ordered the death of children under the age of 2 in Bethlehem during the birth of Jesus. King Herod however was also well-known for his ground-breaking building projects such as Herodium, a complex that was an administrative centre south of Jerusalem. Herodium would also turn out to be the tomb of the king, discovered more than 2000 years later by an archaeology team led by Professor Emeritus Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University in Israel.

EN: I’ve been involved in the study of Herodium for 35 years. I came not just as a tomb hunter, I came to learn about Herodium which is about 25 hectares and very, very well planned. All the walls are perpendicular with a large compass below it with gardens and a big swimming pool. The mountain was already excavated before me in the 1960s, but gradually working at Herodium, I started to find structures that hinted that they might relate to the tomb. It really took us many years to dig that area but when we didn’t find what we looked for down there, just a little bit more than a year ago, we decided to try the hill. Unfortunately, the political situation over the last few years stopped us twice from digging as well.

The records of first-century historian Josephus pointed to Herodium as the king’s tomb. Despite that, archaeologists have been unsuccessful till now. Professor Netzer says there are certain structures the team found that confirm Herodium to be Herod’s tomb.

EN: As part of the answer, I go back to the structures at Lower Herodium. I’ve no doubt now that this king intended to be buried at the lower compass and he prepared himself with structures and a funeral course. He leveled a very long ground, 350m long to be used just for the funeral. So at least one of the buildings down there was made from very elegantly carved stones typical of funerary monuments. Now I go back to the hill, when we ultimately found the monument, it was built of a white stone that is not found in the surrounding of the site and had not been used before at the site so they had to bring it from far away. The stones that decorated the building was totally destroyed but we still have some elements left. Some of them are typical of funerary monuments. And last on the list, we found some pieces of the very elegant and beautifully large sarcophagus that was broken into pieces and we believe that belonged to the king. Everything was outstanding which was built in order to have a proper place for burial in the desert and knowing the background and the ruins of Herodium, we had no doubt anymore.

The search for the tomb was made even more difficult by the destruction of Herod’s tomb and funerary goods.

EN: Josephus Flavius who described the funeral does not describe the tomb itself but he mentioned a crown made of gold and a stick made of gold which were placed at Herod’s body. But we quite definitely can say that the tomb was destroyed around 66AD when Jewish rebels came and occupied the place. It was a big revolt before the temple ultimately was destroyed and they probably brought with them certain anger that they carried against Herod. The rest of the monuments were destroyed I guess from anger but they very likely used some of the stones for their own needs. So the relics that everyone hoped to find including myself are gone.

Given that many of the archaeologists had spent decades searching for the tomb only to find scattered fragments of the elaborate sarcophagus, with no sign of skeletal remains, how did the team react to this?

EN: I totally was not disappointed, but I must admit about a year ago when we started to dig on the hill itself, there were some weeks where we thought that we might find an untouched tomb, that brought a lot of excitement for that moment. But we understood later when we found the tomb, that it was not a cave that could be concealed but it was a regular mausoleum building.

Professor Emeritus Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University in Israel. If you enjoyed this programme, download previous episodes of Frontiers at I’m Loretta Foo for Radio Singapore International.

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