Israel’s national museum will open what it calls the world’s first exhibition devoted to the legacy of the biblical King Herod, who ruled Jerusalem and the Holy Land two millennia ago.
The display includes the reconstructed tomb and sarcophagus of a figure both legendary and despised, curators say. Modern day politics are intruding into this ancient find, with Palestinians objecting to the showing of artifacts found in the West Bank, and the Israeli museum insisting it will return the finds once the exhibit closes, says the Australian.
Museum director James Snyder said the exhibit, named “Herod the Great,” is the largest and most expensive archaeological project the museum has undertaken to date:
“It’s a name that’s always on everyone’s lips. And yet there has never been an exhibit devoted to his material.”
Herod was given a bad name in the New Testament as a tyrant who massacred Bethlehem’s male children in the effort to prevent Jesus’ birth. He was also believed to have murdered his wife and sons.
On the other hand, Herod had the most ambitious building projects including his desert palaces and an expansion of Jerusalem’s Second Jewish Temple complex. A retaining wall for the compound, the holiest site where Jews are permitted to pray, was the Western Wall.
The last major project on Herod’s agenda was to prepare for death. Curators believe Herod built an extravagant, 80-foot-high tomb, which Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer spent 35 years of his career searching for.
Of three sarcophagi found at the site, one was made of a special reddish stone, which combined with Biblical reference, led him to believe it was Herod’s. Jewish zealots of the time had smashed it in outrage, coinciding with the sarcophagus being found in hundreds of pieces, says FOX News.
The two sides of the government involved are needing to work together to accomplish this restoration, and the museum curators are taking the responsibility very seriously.