Standing in front of a projected image of a mesa rising more than 2,475 feet above sea level, Israeli Professor of Archaeology Ehud Netzer speaks during a press conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem 08 May 2007. Netzer said that the tomb of King Herod, famed for expanding the Jewish second temple during his reign in the first century BC, had been discovered in the Israeli occupied West Bank, some 7.5 miles south of Jerusalem. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM -- The tomb of King Herod, the legendary Jewish monarch and ally of the Romans who ruled at the time of Jesus' birth, has been discovered in one of his palaces 2,000 years after his death, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced last night.
A Hebrew University team found the grave at Herodion, a stunning volcano-shaped desert fortress 5 miles southeast of Bethlehem. The team was led by Professor Ehud Netzer, who has been researching the site since 1972.
Herod the Great ruled the ancient kingdom of Judea from around 37 BC to 4 BC.
He built lavish palaces, seaports, aqueducts, and temples, including the magnificent Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and the vast Mediterranean seaport complex and hippodrome at Caesarea.
The massive stones of the outer wall of the Temple Mount still stand today in the Old City of Jerusalem, where they are known as the Western Wall.
He also constructed an elegant winter palace on the north face of Masada, an imposing mesa overlooking the Dead Sea where Jewish rebel forces held out for a year against three Roman legions, decades after Herod's death.
Herodion, a series of underground tunnels hewn out of a mountain and topped with a magnificent palace complete with bathhouses, is regarded as one of the most astonishing engineering feats of the ancient world.
Herod was descended from the Edomites, a tribe of ancient enemies of the Jews who converted to Judaism in about 120 BC. When Palestine was under Roman rule, Herod's father became chief minister of Judea. Herod was made governor of Galilee when he was just 25 years old.
After the assassination of Julius Caesar, Herod became a protege of Mark Antony and Caesar's great-nephew Octavian.
In 39 BC, Herod invaded Judea to win the country back for the Romans and was made king.
The location of Herod's grave has long been a mystery among archeologists. The Roman historian Josephus Flavius wrote that Herod was buried at Herodion, but the grave had not been found until now. It seemed unlikely that a monarch who spent such huge sums on erecting monuments and palaces that have lasted for centuries did not plan his own colossal tomb.