An Israeli archaeologist has found the tomb of King Herod, the legendary builder of ancient Jerusalem and the Holy Land, at a hilltop compound south of the city, the Hebrew University has announced.
The tomb is at a site called Herodium, a flattened hilltop in the Judean Desert, clearly visible from southern Jerusalem.
Herod built a palace compound in the hill, and researchers have discovered his burial site there, the university said late on Monday local time (Tuesday morning AEST).
The university hoped to keep the find a secret until Tuesday local time (Wednesday AEST), when it planned a news conference to disclose the find in detail, but the Haaretz daily found out about the discovery and published an article on its website.
Herod became the ruler of the Holy Land under the Romans around 74 BC. The wall he built around the Old City of Jerusalem during the time of the Jewish Second Temple is the one that can be seen today.
He also undertook massive construction projects in Caesaria, Jericho, the hilltop fortress of Massada and other locations.
Haaretz said the discovery was made at Herodium, the hilltop compound, by archaeologist Ehud Netzer, a Hebrew University professor who has been working at the site since 1972.
It has long been assumed that Herod was buried at Herodium, but decades of excavations failed to turn up the site until now. The first century historian Josephus Flavius described the tomb and Herod's funeral procession.
Haaretz reported that the tomb was found in an area that had not been explored, between the two palaces Herod built on the site. Herod died in 4 BC. in Jericho.
Herodium was one of the last strong points held by Jewish rebels fighting against the Romans, and it was conquered and destroyed by Roman forces in AD 71, a year after they destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem.