Middle East

Israeli archaeologist dies after fall at King Herod dig

Hebrew University archaeologist Ehud Netzer 2008
Image caption Ehud Netzer led numerous high-profile digs over decades of work

Ehud Netzer, the Israeli archaeologist credited with discovering the tomb of the biblical King Herod, has died after falling during a dig. He was 76.

The Hebrew University professor died on Thursday from injuries sustained when a railing gave way at the Herodium archaeological site in the West Bank.

Prof Netzer had worked at the Herodium site for more than 30 years before he located King Herod's palace in 2007.

Israel's prime minister released a statement mourning his death.

"His tragic death is a loss to his family, researchers of Jewish heritage and science and archaeology," Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Following the discovery of Herod's tomb, Prof Netzer went on to excavate an elaborate mausoleum and three shattered sarcophagi believed to be those of Herod and two of his wives.

Herod was appointed the ruler of Judea by the Roman authorities and ruled from 37BC until his death in around 4BC.

The Bible's Gospel of Matthew describes how he ordered all boys under two in Bethlehem to be killed in an attempt to prevent the infant Jesus from usurping his position as the "King of the Jews".

The Herodium site is located near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Palestinians officials have in the past complained about what they see as the theft and commercial exploitation of their artefacts.

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