Ehud Netzer hopes that excavations near the Monumental Building (B28 plan, above) will reveal the location of Herod’s tomb. The north half of this symmetrical building was excavated first in the hope of uncovering the entrance to Herod’s burial cave behind the building. No such entrance was found. Then the south half of the building was excavated to determine whether an entrance to a burial cave was under the mountain on the south side of the building. Again, no cave was found.

Above is a reconstruction of the possible appearance of the Monumental Building as seen from the north. The reconstruction is based on the Temple of Diana at Nimes, to which the Monumental Building bears a striking similarity. The almost three-meter thickness of the north and south walls was probably necessary to support a dome and, perhaps, a second story or a monumental roof.

Below, an excavation volunteer stands in an entrance in the ten-foot-thick north wall. Inside, pilasters forming niches project from the south wall. Although some plaster still clings to the stones, nothing remains today of the frescoes that covered these walls in Herod’s time.

Rooms adjacent to the Monumental Building yielded unexpected architectural remains. In this view looking east (below), we see room B124 in the foreground and room B125 at the rear of the photo. Because the southern wall of these rooms abuts the hill of Herodium, Netzer speculated that they might contain an entrance to Herod’s burial cave. At the end of the 1980 summer season, both rooms were cleared—but no entrance was revealed. However, while clearing room B124, a great number of magnificent carved ashlars, unlike any other stones at Herodium, were found in front of room B125.

The large ashlar decorated with a triglyphmetope motif and the one with a carved rosette may have been part of a Doric frieze. Another beautifully carved ashlar is decorated with grape leaves. Suddenly, hopes were high—perhaps these unique ashlars were part of Herod’s tomb.

The next season’s work began at the spot where the ashlars had been found. But the evidence the excavators found was disappointing: The ashlars were not part of a tomb, but had been reused in the fifth or sixth century to form part of a church. Below is a wall of this Byzantine church, built entirely of Herodian ashlars. But the author still hopes to uncover a tomb cave at Herodium, one that originally used these elegant ashlars in a monument to the master builder, Herod the Great.