The ancient desert fortress of Masada stands on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert in Israel. The construction of the first structures on Masada belongs to the Hasmonaean king, Alexander Jannaeus in the early 1st century BC. However, most of the structures were built by Herod the Great during the latter half of that century. After conquering Masada in 42 BC, it became a safe refuge as well as a pleasure palace for Herod and his family during their long struggle for power in Israel. After the death of Herod in 4 BC, Masada turned into a military outpost and housed a Roman garrison.
960 Jewish rebels committed mass suicide in the fortress of Masada in order not to be captured by the Romans.
The first Jewish Revolt broke out in 66 AD, and a group of Jewish rebels, the Scarii, seized Masada from the Romans in the same year. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, several refugees also escaped to Masada and continued to struggle against the Romans for two years. Eventually, the governor of Judaea, Flavius Silva, decided to suppress the resistance once and for all. So, he sent his troops to conquer Masada in 74 AD. However, according to Flavius’ accounts, around 960 Jewish rebels committed suicide in order not to be captured by the Roman troops. The dry desert climate helped preserve the organic remains of the rebels as well as the frescoes in the fortress of Masada.
The first excavations in the area took place between 1963 and 1965 under the leadership of archaeologist Yigal Yadin. However, the underground structures of the fortress remained untouched. So, a team of archaeologists from Tel Aviv University has launched new excavations to explore the mysterious underground areas of the fortress for the first time since 2006. There is not yet an extensive amount of knowledge about the fortress. However, Dr. Stiebel, the head of the team, says that it probably served as a hideout or escape route during the siege.