As a private tour guide in Israel that visits Masada almost on a weekly basis, I owe a lot to Ehud Netzer. His work revealed so much to the public. Even Though some till today is a bit controversial like Herod’s tomb. Still, his work made a huge leap forward regarding the Herodian period.
Netzer served as a professor at the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was a world-renowned expert on Herodian architecture. Netzer worked at Masada with Yigael Yadin and later completed the official excavation report for the site. Later he led teams of archaeologists who did important fieldwork at the Herodian palace at Jericho. At Herodium, in the desert near Bethlehem and south of Jerusalem, for more than three decades; Netzer oversaw extensive excavations focusing on remains at the foot and on the sides of the artificial mountain
Ehud Netzer’s Excavations at Herodium
Now Herodium is an enormous, cone-shaped; man-made mountain; fortress-palace built by Herod just outside Bethlehem. According to the ancient Romano-Jewish historian Josephus, Herodium was the site of Herod’s burial. Enclosed within the artificial hill was a fortress-palace; which had previously been the focus of excavations led in 1962-67 by Virgilio Canio Corbo and Stanislao Loffreda from the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Jerusalem. Netzer began work on the extensive palace complex at the foot of the hill, which he labeled as “Lower Herodium”.
The Architecture of Herod’s Palaces
Between the years 1972–87, Netzer worked at Herodium, excavating the palace structures. He resumed work on the dig from 1997 till the year 2000. And again from the year 2000 till 2010. Beginning in 2006, excavations revealed a ramp winding around the hill from the lower palace complex and stadium.
Along its path were discovered a theater and a monumental staircase; which led past a platform and remains. In May 2007, Netzer identified the probable tomb of King Herod. Also, Netzer found the sarcophagus, “shattered into hundreds of pieces”; as described by Josephus, who wrote that it was done “by Jewish dissidents during the first revolt against the Romans between 66 CE and 72 CE.”
Controversy Concerning Herod’s Tomb
In 2013, archaeologists Joseph Patrich and Benjamin Arubas challenged the identification of the tomb as that of Herod. According to Patrich and Arubas, the tomb is too modest to be Herod’s and has several unlikely features. Roi Porat, who replaced Netzer as excavation leader after the latter’s death, stood by the identification.
Ehud Netzer: Jericho Excavations
Netzer excavated at Jericho from 1973. And continued working there over the next decade. At the oasis of Jericho, he uncovered new wings of Herod’s winter palace, as well as a Hasmonean (Maccabean) winter palace containing a number of swimming pools and gardens. This is the major archaeological site to have survived from that period in Jewish history. The complex includes the Jericho Synagogue, built 50-70 BCE and identified in 1998 as the oldest synagogue that has ever been found in the Holy Land.
Ehud Netzer: His Premature Death
In 2010 Netzer fell and was seriously injured when a railing gave way at the dig at Herodium. He died of his injuries three days later at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem, Israel.
To all opinions, Ehud Netzer was one of the greatest archaeologists in the modern period of Israel.