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Make way for the King!

Today (February 12th, 2013), the Israel Museum is opening a special exhibition: “Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey“.

Herod, son of Antipatros, was a gifted politician who ruled his subjects efficiently (though often with much cruelty), pleased his Romans patrons, and excelled in enjoying life.
He had more than ten wives and was a great entrepreneur and builder: Jerusalem, Caesarea and Sebasty are just some of his grand building projects.

Living to an old age for his time (69), Herod eventually died in Jericho, and was buried at a site he humbly named after himself – Herodium.

The remains of Herod’s palace at the acropolis of Herodium. In 2007 Netzer found Herod’s tomb near the palace. See my report on the discovery here.

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The exact location of his tomb was lost over time, yet in 2007, after 40 years of searching, Prof. Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University announced the discovery the lost tomb.

The idea of the Museum exhibition began right after the discovery, and was initiated by Netzer and  Israel Museum curators Dudi Mevorah and Dr. Silvia Rosenberg.

Thirty tons of architectural fragments were moved from the site, all in order to reconstruct Herod’s tomb and present it to the public.

Curators Dudi Mevorah and Dr. Silvia Rosenberg debating on how to display fresco remains from Herod’s palace in Jericho. Dudi and Silvia were generous to allow me take some photos of the last preperations of the exhibition, and I am most grateful for that(!).

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The exhibition also presents finds from other sites related to Herod’s life and times –  Herod’s bath from Cypros, frescoes from his palace in Jericho, and more. Sculptures of Herod’s Roman patrons are also present.

 Setting in place a larger-then-life size sculpture of Augustus, Roman emperor and Herod’s patron. The sculpture was found in the 1930’s in Sebasty, one of Herod’s greatest building projects

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A beautiful and rare wall painting (secco) from Herodium, found in a room near Herod’s tomb

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Detail of the wall painting, showing an ox in a non-local landscape, and sailboats in the back

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The most exciting part of the exhibition, however,  is the in the ninth room, where the upper part of Herod’s tomb  is reconstructed, and his sarcophagus is displayed –  a large reddish stone coffin with an exquisite floral design carved on its side.

The upper part of Herod’s tomb nearly complete

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Curator Dudi Mevorah smiles in excitment as he unveils the Sarcophagi of Herod (in the center) and two other family members, as they arrive from the restoration department

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Sadly, Professor Netzer himself will not see the exhibition. In October of 2010, at the end of a meeting with the curators at Herodium, Netzer accidentally leaned against a wooden rail that broke. Netzer fell, badly injured his head, and died a few days later in the hospital. This exhibition is in many ways a memorial of Netzer and his important archaeological legacy.