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Archaeologists Unearth Wine Jug Used By King Herod

July 8, 1996

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Archaeologists sifting through a 2,000-year-old garbage dump at Masada unearthed the remains of a clay wine jug inscribed with the name of King Herod, along with the first evidence of daily life at the desert fortress in Herod’s time.

The Latin inscription says either ``Herod, King of Judea″ or ``Herod, King of the Jews,″ archaeologist Ehud Netzer of Hebrew University said Monday.

Netzer said it was the first time the full title of Herod, who reigned from 37 B.C. until his death in 4 B.C., had been found in an inscription.

The wine jug, which dates from about 19 B.C., was found in an ancient garbage dump near the synagogue at Masada, Netzer said.

``Sometimes the most interesting finds come from the garbage dump,″ he said.

The cone-shaped, two-handled jug, which held about 20 gallons of wine, was shipped to Masada from Italy, Netzer said.

Archaeologists also discovered food remains from Masada dwellers in Herod’s time, including nuts, eggshells, dates and olive pits, as well as pieces of cloth and basket ware.

Masada, built by Herod atop an isolated cliff overlooking the Dead Sea on the edge of the Judean Desert, was the last outpost of the zealots during the Jewish revolt against Rome that began in A.D. 66. After Roman battering rams breached the fortress’ gates, the approximately 950 Jews there committed suicide rather than be taken prisoner.

Archaeologists have been excavating Masada since the 1960s. But Netzer, who has taken part in the excavations since 1963, said most of the artifacts found before now were from the period of the zealots, while the new artifacts give archaeologists their first glimpse of daily life during the time of Herod.

About 100 people lived at Masada during Herod’s time, Netzer said. Several hundred more would have stayed there when Herod himself visited, which Netzer said was probably only about one week a year.

Archaeologists found two caves near the Masada synagogue _ one used as a storage area and the other which apparently served first as a storage area and later as a garbage dump. The dry air at Masada preserved the organic material at the dump.

Archaeologists also excavated the top level of Herod’s palace and found evidence of a decorated reception hall and an earlier, smaller residence.

They also found evidence of the Roman-Jewish battle during the revolt, including stone projectiles, arrows and signs of fire damage.

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