A courtyard uncovered in Machaerus, Jordan was likely the location of a well-known Bible story that involved a dance and the eventual condemnation of John the Baptist to death, an archaeologist says in a new book.
Archaeologist Győző Vörös, in his book Holy Land Archaeology on Either Side: Archaeological Essays in Honour of Eugenio Alliata says the courtyard in Jordan has an apsidal-shaped niche that is likely where King Herod Antipas sat. LiveScience first reported on the discovery by Vörös.
According to Mark 6 in the New Testament, Herod was celebrating his birthday when the daughter of Herodias (his wife) “came in and danced” and “pleased Herod and his dinner guests.” Herod told Herodias' daughter, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” The woman then asked her mother, “What shall I ask for?” and Herodias responded, “The head of John the Baptist.” Mark 6 says “Herodias nursed a grudge against John” because he had said her marriage to Herod was unlawful. (She was also married to Herod’s brother, Philip.)
Herod “immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother,” according to Mark 6.
Archaeologists discovered the courtyard in 1980, “but they didn't recognize the niche as being part of Herod Antipas' throne until now, Vörös wrote in the article,” LiveScience reported.
The presence “of the throne next to the courtyard solidifies the conclusions about the dance floor,” Vörös said, according to LiveScience.
The historian Josephus said the woman’s name was Salome.
Scholars contacted by LiveScience were divided on whether the site could be the location of the dance.
Jodi Magness, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says she has doubts. But Morten Hørning Jensen, a professor at the Norwegian School of Theology, said the evidence is strong.
“I think it is historically probable that this excavation has brought the ‘dance floor’ of Salome to light,” Jensen told LiveScience. He wrote the book “Herod Antipas in Galilee.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Krugloff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.