JERSUALEM A "royal box" has been uncovered by a team of Israeli archaeologists within a 400-seat facility at King Herod's winter palace in the Judean desert.
The royal box (measuring approx. 26 by 22 ft. and about 19 ft. high) is the central space among a group of rooms attached to the upper part of the theater's structure and could be fully opened towards the stage.
Prof. Ehud Netzer conducted the excavation of the box, under the auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Archaeology.
On the upper parts of the walls are the room's highlights: a series of unique "windows" painted with out-folded shutters on either side and various naturalistic landscapes within. They include scenes of the countryside, the Nile River and a nautical scene featuring a large boat with sails in the upper portion of the theater.
Netzer said that this was the first time that paintings of this type have been discovered in Israel. He believes that Herod commissioned Roman artists to decorate the walls, perhaps sent by Marcus Agrippa, who a year before his visit to Judea met Herod on the famous Greek island of Lesbos.
The site where the "royal box" in King Herod's fortress was found is a little more than seven miles south of Jerusalem on a hill shaped like a cone. It overlooks the Judean Desert and the mountains of Moab to the east and the Judean Hills to the west.
"What an amazing discovery, a discovery that continues to prove that Israel is indeed the land of the Bible," said Haim Gutin, Commissioner for Tourism, North and South America. "Every step you take in Israel the Bible comes alive, and every stone reveals another page of history."