History of Site Research

אהוד נצר

History of Research of the Site

The Herodium hill’s unique shape and its proximity to Jerusalem and Bethlehem combined to attract pilgrims already during the Middle Ages. In the 16th c., the Italian traveler Felix Fabri called it the “Franks Hill”, imagining it to be the site where the Crusaders fought Salah-e-Din after the fall of Jerusalem, and this is how it was referred to until the 19th c.
Initial research was carried out in the 18th and 19th c. by travelers and the earliest researchers of the Land of the Bible; the first plan of Herodium was made by A. Pocock following a visit in 1743, while in 1838, Edward Robinson described the site and its buildings, dating them to the Roman period; he was the first to note the similarity of the site to Josephus’ descriptions and essentially the first to identify it as Herodium. In 1863, the French traveler and investigator, F. de Saulcy, recorded the site, with descriptions and plans of the buildings of Lower Herodium, including the pool, while in 1869, V. Green published an accurate description of the wall and towers of the hilltop fortress.
Konrad Schick, the German architect and archaeologist who lived in Jerusalem in the late 19th c., was the first to point out that the circular fortress was built on the hill in its original form, and only afterwards covered by the artificial fill. His detailed description from 1879, with plans and sections, was the fullest description prior to the modern excavations.
In 1881, Conder and Kitchener produced an accurate plan of the Fortress as part of the PEF Survey of Western Palestine.
The first organized excavations at the site were carried out from 1962 to 1967 by Father Virgilio Corbo of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem, exposing large sections of the Palace-Fortress from the Herodian , First Revolt and Bar-Kokhba periods. Further excavations in the subterranean water-cisterns and tunnels were carried out by Shimon Arazi and Ehud Netzer between 1973 and 1975.
Large-scale excavations commenced in 1972, including those of Lower Herodium, under Ehud Netzer’s direction for the Archaeological Institute of the Jerusalem Hebrew University.
In 2007, Netzer’s team (R. Porat, Y. Kalman and R. Chachy-Laureys) uncovered the remains of a large burial monument with three splendid sarcophagi in its debris, on the hill’s northern slope, and later the royal theater and other buildings were also exposed on the slope.
The excavation team continues the excavation and research of Herodium, despite the untimely passing of Ehud Netzer in 2010, after slipping on site while working in the Herodian theater.