King Herod's Retreat
Painted "windows" and blocks of color—as well as a crude wall (center) added after the theater had been closed—add drama to King Herod's royal theater box at Herodium, site of one of his palaces and his mausoleum in what's now the West Bank. (See "King Herod's Tomb Unearthed Near Jerusalem, Expert Says.")
First revealed in 2008, the VIP chamber has now been fully excavated, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem announced in late September. The royal box once loomed over the "nosebleed" seats at the king's circa-15 B.C. private amphitheater.
While ruling over Judea, the southernmost division of ancient Palestine, Herod wanted "to put Herodium on the map," said archaeologist Ehud Netzer, who discovered Herod's mausoleum, also at Herodium, in 2007.
"In order to attract people, there were gardens and waterworks, and the place became famous," said Netzer, an emeritus professor at Hebrew University.
"The theater indicates that the experiment worked: there was lots of life there. Hundreds, if not thousands, of guests would visit the place and there was justification to provide them with entertainment."
—Mati Milstein in Tel Aviv
Pictures: King Herod's VIP Box Excavated
"There is nothing like this," says archaeologist Ehud Netzer of the vibrantly painted royal theater box excavated near Bethlehem.