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Ehud Netzer (1934–2010)

November 19, 2010

Ehud NetzerEhud Netzer, the world’s leading authority on Herodian architecture and a prominent Israeli archaeologist, died on October 27 from a fall at Herodium where he had been digging for 38 years, in search of Herod’s tomb. Leaning against a wooden railing that gave way on a steep slope near the spot where he had finally found Herod’s smashed sarcophagus in 2007, Netzer fell 10 feet before landing, then rolled and fell another 10 feet, critically injuring his head, neck and back. He lived for two days, long enough for a kidney to be donated so that someone else might live, as he had wanted. His retinas were given to a retina bank. He was 76.

Herod was the ancient world’s builder par excellence. And it could be said that Herod’s architectural achievements were Netzer’s obsession. For a decade beginning in 1973, he conducted a major excavation at Herod’s winter palace at Jericho. Even earlier he worked with Yigael Yadin at Herod’s dramatic palace/fortress at Masada. After Yadin died without completing the excavation report, Netzer wrote the hefty final report on The Buildings, Stratigraphy and Architecture of Masada.

In 2006, Netzer published his comprehensive volume titled The Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder (Tubingen: Mohr-Siebeck). The BAR reviewer referred to Netzer’s “intimate familiarity” with the subject and called the book a “gargantuan effort.”

Netzer was a member of BAR’s editorial advisory board for 30 years and frequently wrote for the magazine. With the eye of an architect, he imaginatively reconstructed Herod’s Antonia fortress on the Temple Mount where Paul was imprisoned. With his architectural skills he restored in his mind’s eye Qasr al-Abd, the magnificent remains of the fortress/estate in Jordan of the Jewish tax collector Tobias.

In his long career, Netzer worked at numerous other sites, including Hazor, Sepphoris, Caesarea and Jerusalem.

Ehud Netzer was born in Haifa in 1934 and graduated from the Technion with a degree in architecture. He subsequently received a Ph.D. in archaeology from the Hebrew University, where he taught. He also pursued his archaeological career throughout his life, especially in historic restoration. He was responsible for the recent restoration of Masada.

He is survived by Dvora, his wife of 46 years, by three daughters and a son, and by ten grandchildren.—H.S.

The Ehud Netzer Special Collection in The BAS Library features numerous articles written by Ehud Netzer throughout his long career.

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