An archaeological site in northern Israel is now thought to possibly contain a lost Roman temple. The temple, which was housed within a larger ancient Roman complex, would have been built by King Herod, who presided over the province of Judea for 33 years, between 37 B.C.E. and 4 B.C.E.
The structure is located within Omrit, an archeological site that is also home to the remains of other buildings with Roman influences. Though Omrit is not very accessible to the public today due to its remote locale, the site was once highly trafficked by international visitors and researchers throughout the 19th century, when there was a surge in pilgrimages to holy sites. It wasn’t until the 1970s that scholars at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem launched an archeological survey of the site for further research. Excavation began in the 1990s.
Though some archaeologists believe that the structure could be one of four temples that were built by Herod and documented by Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, experts are still debating the theory, according to a report by Israeli news outlet Haaretz.
Within the complex, there are elaborate architectural elements such as columns and Corinthian capitals, flooring and steps. Historians believe that the temple was constructed in three phases, only to be destroyed by an earthquake in 363 C.E.
The Omrit compound, which also contains an elaborate road system, sits on a hill that overlooks the biblical Nebi Yehuda tomb, or the tomb of the Hebrew and Islamic prophet Samuel, who was worshipped by Druze and Muslim followers. The tomb’s location at the foot of the hill has led those unearthing the area to believe that the entire site was sacred. It remains one of the key relics of Roman imperial rule in the region.
Three other well-known temples built by Herod are located across Israel’s northern locales. One resides in Jerusalem, another in the central town of Samaria, and the third in the Mediterranean coastal town Casarea. Experts believe that Herod built each of them as ritual sites to the Roman emperor Augustus, who was a close political ally and had appointed Herod to oversee the region.