Archaeologists discover royal passageway to King Herod’s palace

Chuck Bednar for – Your Universe Online
Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology have discovered a monumental entryway to a unique palace constructed by King Herod The Great.
The entryway leads to the Herodian Hilltop Palace at the Herodium National Park, and the complex was discovered during recent excavations conducted by members of the Herodium Expedition in Memory of Ehud Netzer as part of a program to develop the site for tourism.
According to the archaeologists, the primary feature of the entryway is a corridor with a complex system of arches that spans its width on three levels. The arches buttressed the corridor’s massive side-walls, allowing the King and his entourage direct passage into the courtyard, and it helped preserve the 20-meter long, six-meter wide corridor to a height of 20 meters.
Hebrew University archaeologists Roi Porat, Yakov Kalman and Rachel Chachy believe that the corridor was constructed as part of the king’s plan to establish Herodium into a massive, artificial volcano-shaped hill designed to commemorate him long after his demise.
“Surprisingly, during the course of the excavations, it became evident that the arched corridor was never actually in use, as prior to its completion it became redundant,” the archaeologists said, according to The Telegraph. “This appears to have happened when Herod, aware of his impending death, decided to convert the whole hilltop complex into a massive memorial mound, a royal burial monument on an epic scale.”
The palace was build following Herod’s defeat of the Parthians, and was constructed along with a town on the site of his victory, approximately 10 miles south of Jerusalem, the Daily Mail said. The arched entrance and corridor leads to a lobby or vestibule covered with colored frescoes.
“The upper section of a new monumental stairway stretching from the hill’s base to its peak, constructed during the course of this building phase, appears to have been built over it,” the university said. “The excavators point out that not only was the arched corridor covered over in the course of the construction of the hill-monument, but also all the structures earlier built by Herod on the hill’s slopes, including the Royal Theater uncovered by the expedition in 2008.”
“The only edifice not covered over was the splendid mausoleum-style structure, identified by Netzer and the expedition as Herod’s burial-place,” it added. “Together with the monumental cone-shaped hill, this constituted the unique Herodian Royal burial-complex.”
The original impressive Palace vestibule, which was blocked when the corridor was made redundant, was exposed during the course of the current excavations. A magnificent entryway led into the fore-chamber, and provided evidence of rebel occupation during the Great Revolt, which took place. That evidence included Jewish coins and crude temporary structures.
“In addition, the excavations in the arched corridor also turned up impressive evidence from the Bar Kokhba Revolt period (132-135/6 CE): hidden tunnels dug on the site by the rebels as part of the guerilla warfare they waged against the Romans,” the university said.
“Supported in part by wooden beams, these tunnels exited from the hilltop fortress by way of the corridor’s walls, through openings hidden in the corridor,” the archaeologists added. “One of the tunnels revealed a well-preserved construction of 20 or so cypress-wood branches, arranged in a cross-weave pattern to support the tunnel’s roof.”
Future expeditions to the site will focus on the excavation of the arched corridor so that visitors will have direct access to the Herodium hilltop palace-fortress, allowing them to enter the facility in the same what that King Herod did some 2,000 years ago. In addition, they plan to offer tourists direct access from the structures on the slope, the Royal Theater and the Mausoleum via the earlier monumental stairway, to the hilltop Palace, the researchers said.
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