Excavation and Restoration of the Tomb of the Kings
Tom Powers commented on yesterday’s post, but knowing that many do not read the comments, I’m making a portion of it a post of its own. He is replying to my statement that “Gaining access to the tomb today is more difficult than the average tourist site, but it is well worth it.”
Just a word about access to the "Tombs of the Kings" these days: There is none, as far as I know, for the forseeable future. The main reason is that the site is undergoing complete restoration. In fact, as part of this process folks from the Ecole were called on to excavate on top of the tomb and completely remove all of the accumulated earth. One object was to inspect and then seal the bedrock surfaces there, in order to prevent leakage of water into the tomb chambers. Also of interest, though, was to try to identify any traces of a superstructure -- a nefesh -- over the tomb, especially since Josephus mentions the "monuments of Helena" (War 5:147) as a landmark in tracing the line of Jerusalem's Third Wall. Many have supposed that the tomb featured the sort of pyramids or cones that you have atop the "display tombs" in the Kidron Valley. Long story short: nothing conclusive was found. One byproduct, though: several tons of nice topsoil, which wound up in the garden of the Ecole Biblique!
You can see one artist’s reconstruction of the tomb with the original superstructure in James Finegan, The Archeology of the New Testament, page 315.
I hope that the current restoration work signifies an interest in making the tomb accessible to the public.