A team of archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology has discovered a royal passageway to Herodium, an ancient fortified palace built by King Herod I (73 – 4 BC).
“The main feature of the passageway is an impressive corridor with a complex system of arches spanning its width on three separate levels. These arches buttressed the corridor’s massive side-walls, allowing the king and his entourage directly passage into the palace courtyard,” said team members Dr Roi Porat, Dr Yakov Kalman and Dr Rachel Chachy.
“Thanks to the supporting arches, the 20-m-long and 6-m-wide corridor has been preserved to a height of 20 m.”
The corridor, according to the archaeologists, was built as part of Herod’s plan to turn Herodium into a massive artificial volcano-shaped hill.
“Surprisingly, during the course of the excavations, it became evident that the arched corridor was never actually in use, as prior to its completion it became redundant,” they said.
The corridor was back-filled during the construction of the massive artificial hill at the end of Herod’s reign.
“The upper section of a new monumental stairway stretching from the hill’s base to its peak, constructed during the course of this building phase, appears to have been built over it.”
“The excavators point out that not only was the arched corridor covered over in the course of the construction of the hill-monument, but also all the structures earlier built by Herod on the hill’s slopes.”
“During the excavations, the original impressive palace vestibule, blocked when the corridor became redundant, was also exposed.”
“This entry-room, decorated with splendid painted frescoes, had a magnificent entryway leading into it, and offered evidence of the rebel occupation during the Great Revolt (66-71 CE), including Jewish Revolt coinage and crude temporary structures.”
In addition, the excavations in the arched corridor also turned up impressive evidence from the Bar Kokhba Revolt period (132-135/6 CE): hidden tunnels dug by the rebels as part of the guerilla warfare they waged against the Romans.
“Supported in part by wooden beams, these tunnels exited from the hilltop fortress by way of the corridor’s walls, through openings hidden in the corridor. One of the tunnels revealed a well-preserved construction of 20 or so cypress-wood branches, arranged in a cross-weave pattern to support the tunnel’s roof.