Archaeologists are claiming that they have identified the dance floor where John the Baptist was condemned to death in approximately 29 AD.
The prophet was executed by Herod Antipas (the son of King Herod). According to the Bible, Herod Antipas was set to marry a woman called Herodias, however, they were both divorced and John the Baptist didn’t agree with the marriage. During the wedding, Salome (Herodias’ daughter) performed a dance that impressed Herod Antipas so much that he told her he would give her anything she wanted and she ultimately asked for John the Baptist’s head. While Herod Antipas was initially reluctant, he did grant her wish and had the prophet’s head delivered to her on a platter.
The dance floor where she demanded the prophet’s head has been discovered according to some archaeologists. It is believed that the dance took place at a courtyard at Machaerus. Győző Vörös, who is the director of a project called Machaerus Excavations and Surveys at the Dead Sea, wrote in the book “Holy Land Archaeology on Either Side: Archaeological Essays in Honour of Eugenio Alliata” that the apsidal-shaped niche in the courtyard was probably where the throne of Herod Antipas was once located and where he controlled Galilee as well as parts of Jordan.
Vörös went on to write that even though the courtyard was found back in 1980, the idea that the niche was part of the Herod Antipas’ throne was only recently revealed and the fact that the throne was next to the courtyard seemed to indicate that’s where the dance floor was located.
But not everyone is convinced that the dance floor that sealed John the Baptist’s fate has been found. In several interviews conducted by Live Science, some experts were quite skeptical regarding the discovery. Jodi Magness, who is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has her doubts that Herod Antipas’ throne once sat there. She said that the niche was quite small compared to the throne that his father had at the winter palace of Jericho and that the one found at Machaerus looked like the two that there discovered at the Upper Herodium (a palace-fortress built by King Herod although the niches have never been proven to have been thrones).
Others, however, are more convinced that the discovery is the real thing. Morten Hørning Jensen, who is a professor at the Norwegian School of Theology, stated, “I think it is historically probable that this excavation has brought the ‘dance floor’ of Salome to light.” And Eric Meyers, who is a professor emeritus of Jewish studies at Duke University, said that “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.”
Pictures of the site can be seen here.