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“It’s a monumental tomb out in the middle of nowhere in a place he built for himself,” Zias said. “It’s as authentic as one could ask for.”

The museum exhibit also features a reconstructed throne room from one of Herod’s palaces in Jericho, and a full-sized replica of Herod’s theater viewing room at the Herodion, incorporating detailed fresco wall paintings and other decorative elements that museum staff collected on site.

There are still pieces of the puzzle left to assemble. At the museum’s lab Tuesday, workers were still rushing to fit together all the small stucco wall lining pieces found to display in the exhibit. One fresco wall painting, found in tiny fragments, has taken 2 1/2 years to reassemble.

Other items include the paint jars used for Herod’s frescos and plump jugs of wine imported from south Italy labeled in Latin characters, “Herod King of Judea.”

The museum’s exhibit is almost entirely made up of finds from the West Bank _ a point of contention with the Palestinians.

Hamdan Taha, the assistant deputy minister in charge of antiquities in the Palestinian Authority, said the excavation and exhibit were not coordinated with Palestinian officials.

“The excavation is another example of utilization of archaeology and history for ideological purposes … which will not serve to establish comprehensive peace between the two peoples, the Palestinian and Israeli peoples,” Taha said.

Taha said excavating archaeological objects from the West Bank without Palestinian permission is in violation of an international convention which governs antiquities in occupied territories.

Museum director James Snyder said he had not received complaints from the Palestinian Authority. He said Israel is responsible for custodianship of archaeology in the West Bank, and that the museum would, in compliance with international law, return the Herodion artifacts to their original site when the exhibit closes.

“It’s important we take that responsibility seriously,” Snyder said.


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