Hiram Henriquez/National Geographic Stock

LAP OF LUXURY. The only site named after himself, the grand estate at Herodium is a testament to Herod’s building prowess. Its construction began in 28–27 B.C.E. after Herod returned from Rome upon securing the support of Augustus and Marc Antony and being appointed king of Judea. The palace-fortress on the summit of the mound was built first and then the vast palace complex—Lower Herodium—at its base. A veritable lap of luxury, Lower Herodium boasted a 1,200-by-100-foot man-made course, a bathhouse with mosaic floors and a large plastered pool with an island in its middle.

The mausoleum uncovered by Ehud Netzer sits halfway up the slope and is connected to Lower Herodium by a monumental stairway. Although Josephus states that Herod was buried at Herodium, he does not specify where. It begs the question: Was he buried in the mausoleum on the slope or in the fortress on the summit?