Ehud Netzer: Israeli archaeologist best known for excavating King Herod's winter palace

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Ehud Netzer, who died on 28 October aged 76, was an influential Israeli archaeologist best known for excavating King Herod's winter palace near Bethelhem and discovering the monarch's tomb there. He died in hospital following a fall at the site when a safety rail broke.

Netzer led numerous high-profile digs over decades of work in a country where the ancient past plays a central part in national life and where archaeologists have sometimes become leading public figures. His discoveries helped expand the modern understanding of ancient Israel and especially of King Herod, the extravagant Jewish proxy ruler who controlled the Holy Land under Roman occupation two millennia ago.

Beginning in the 1960s, Netzer took part in the excavation of Masada. There, archaeologists revealed the scene of a stand-off between Roman legionnaires and Jewish rebels after the destruction of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem, also built by Herod, in 70 AD. The siege ended when the Jews committed mass suicide.

But he was best known for excavating Herodion, Herod's winter palace, wghich he described as a kind of "country club", located in a largely man-made hill on the West Bank. In 2007, after 35 years of work, he discovered what he identified as Herod's tomb, shedding new light on the king. His team unearthed limestone fragments from an ornately carved sarcophagus with decorative urns of a type never before found in the Holy Land.