Reconstructing Herod’s Tomb III

Written by Michael Moore

February 26, 2017

What about exterior decorations of tombs?

The following typological list of “Tombs with Ornamented Façades” was provided by R. Hachlili:

1. Tomb entrance plain façade, unornamented

2. Tomb entrance moulded façade with the addition of a vestibule

3. Entrance façade ornamented with entablature and antae

4. Entrance façade with moulding and pediment

5. Columned porch (distylos in antis) façade with ornamented entablature

6. Columned porch (distylos in antis) façade with unornamented entablature

7. Tomb façade with three entrances

If you were someone of royal blood or were incredibly wealthy, the façade of your tomb might contain decorations that resembled temples and honorific public buildings of the period. Any one of types 3 through 7 might house the remains of your family. Entablature: generally stretching across a row of columns (e.g., nos. 10, 32 below), an element called the entablature may also be decorated with motifs. In the Jerusalem area, rosettes, wreaths, grape clusters, palm trees, vessels, metopes, medallions, shields, alternating between triglyphs are common elements. Since Herod’s tomb was obviously ornamented with triglyphs, at least an ornamented entablature would have had to be present somewhere (e.g., types 3 and 5; entablatures may also exist around the sides of freestanding monuments like Absalom’s pillar.) Certain motifs such as wreaths (e.g., nos. 4, 10, 32) may reflect the lifetime accomplishments of the owner of the tomb or “master of the tomb” (which is a term found in several tomb inscriptions). More commonly, the former livelihood of the deceased may be provided in the inscriptions themselves found on the tomb walls or on the ossuaries.tomb-entablatures-blog1.jpg

Type 3: “Frieze Tomb”, Jerusalem (Avigad 1950-51; IEJ 1. p. 10, Fig. 5)

Type 5: “Tomb of the Kings”, Queen Helene of Adiabene. (Avigad 1956; 340, fig. 18)

At times, instead of an entablature, a pediment surmounted by a gable was used.



Type 4: 4 “Tomb of the Grapes”, Jerusalem. (RAF Macalister, PEFQSt (1900)pl. 3.)

Type 4: “Sanhedrin Tomb”, Jerusalem

Type 4: “Cave of Jehosaphat” (associated with Absalom’s Pillar), Jerusalem (adapted from Avigad, 1954; 13, fig. 77)

<>This motif is actually connected with the the form of a gabled roof. Gabled roofs are architectural features normally connected with temples or monumental buildings, which were familiar to most inhabitants of the the first century Roman world. On the façade of the building above the entrance, the triangular or inverted “V” shape of the roof edges is called a “gable” in monumental architecture. At each corner of the triangle, and at the apex of the gable, floral or pointed decorations often arise vertically, which are called acroteria (e.g., nos. 1, 2, 4). The triangular area formed by the gable is called the “pediment” and is often richly ornamented on actual buildings and on the glyptic friezes often associated with exteriors of tombs and interior doorways in monumental buildings. In Jerusalem, floral designs including grape vines and acathus leaves were popular on the pediments and acroteria. Although, less commonly, urns and wreaths were also found (e.g., the side acroteria of the “Tomb of the Grapes”.

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