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Masada (Israel)

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Masada, Israel

Masada, Israel

heatkernel (c) 2006
Definition: The archaeological site of Masada is among the most politically-charged archaeological ruins in the world, and that's saying a lot. Located on a high plateau overlooking the Dead Sea, Masada is a fortress-palace that was built by a Judean king in the late second century BC. In the first century BC it was embellished by King Herod, and then during the Roman siege of AD 66-74, the site was defended to the death by Jewish rebels. Excavations at the site have been conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the direction of Yigael Yadin since the early 1960s.

The Jewish historian Josephus is one of the historic sources about Masada, and it is from Josephus that the report of the mass suicide of 950 rebels in AD 66. The mass suicide has never been identified archaeologically (only about 30 skeletons have been found to date), although there is plenty evidence for the siege (including excavations at the Roman siege camp) and subsequent abandonment of the site.

Sources

N.S. Gill has several useful sources on Josephus. A virtual tour of Masada has been assembled by Lisa Katz, About's guide to Judaism.

Neil Asher Silberman. 1998. Masada. In The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, Brian Fagan editor. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

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