National Geographic : 2008 Dec
keeping his excavations running by using the business skills developed as an independent architect, raising much of the money for the digs himself, employing students when he couldn't afford to hire outside help, and ferrying equip ment to and from sites in his station wagon, loading four mud-caked wheelbarrows into the back and strapping five more to the roof. His first encounter with Herod came in 1963, when he began a three-year stint as team archi tect of the landmark excavations of Masada, the fortified compound built by Herod on a mesa top overlooking the Dead Sea. In 1967, when the Six Day War and the subsequent Israeli occupation of the West Bank made a number of Herodian sites accessible to Israeli archaeologists, Netzer began excavating two of the richest of them, at Jericho and Herodium, and later several others. "I encountered so many unique architectural designs and solu tions that I gradually came to the conclusion that there was one mind behind them all-that Herod had a profound understanding of archi tecture and urban planning, and took an active role in the erection of many of his buildings." Pulling his hat down low over his eyes against the slicing wind, Netzer led the way off the gravel road into the excavations. For the next several hours we wound our way up the hillside, where goats grazed among clumps of thistle and low green sida plants, and massive ruins recalled the paradise Herod had built on the edge of the desert, like a mirage come true. Herodium consists of two main sectors: the garden city of Lower Herodium, at the foot of the hill and on its lower slopes-when it was built, it was probably the largest villa com plex in the Roman world-and the imposing palace fortress of Upper Herodium on the hill top, whose massive, five-story East Tower, long in ruins, once dominated the skyline. "Herodium is a complicated site because it's set on steep terrain, articulated on many levels, and has a wealth of remains," Netzer told me as we started up the slope toward the Lower Palace. "It's a vast puzzle in four dimensions, since time is a dimension too." Not far from where we had parked, Netzer showed me the Great Pool, where he began excavating in 1972: a rectangular brickwork CAESAREA Carving his loyalty in stone, Herod built a temple honoring the city's namesake, Caesar Augustus, on a hill above the port. Augustus honored Herod with celebrations in the hippodrome and theater.