Salome’s dance floor – where John the Baptist was condemned to death – has been uncovered. We think.

LiveScience brings together sordid incestuous subtext, capital punishment, judicial critique, scripture, Oscar Wilde, and of course archaeology in a single story of an excavation on the eastern side of the Dead Sea in Jordan:

At Herod Antipas’ birthday party, Herodias’ daughter, named Salome, performed a dance that so delighted Herod Antipas that the king promised her anything she wanted as a reward. Salome, goaded on by Herodias, asked for the head of John the Baptist. Herod Antipas was reluctant to grant the request, according to the Bible, but he ultimately decided to fulfill it and had John the Baptist’s head brought to Salome on a platter.

A courtyard uncovered at Machaerus is likely the place where Salome’s dance was performed and where Herod Antipas decided to have John the Baptist beheaded, wrote Győző Vörös, director of a project called Machaerus Excavations and Surveys at the Dead Sea, in the book “Holy Land Archaeology on Either Side: Archaeological Essays in Honour of Eugenio Alliata” (Fondazione Terra Santa, 2020). The courtyard, Vörös said, has an apsidal-shaped niche that is probably the remains of the throne where Herod Antipas sat.

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. The presence of the throne next to the courtyard solidifies the conclusions about the dance floor, Vörös wrote.

The archaeological team has been reconstructing the courtyard and published several images in the book showing what it looked like around the time of John the Baptist’s execution.

Eric Meyers, a professor emeritus of Jewish studies at Duke University, said that it is quite possible that the throne of Herod Antipas has been found and is eager to read the final reports on the site. Whether “a perfect match between literary and archaeological sources that places the execution of John the Baptist in that very spot remains to be seen. In any event, a strong case has been made and I look forward to the final reports,” Meyers said.