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A tomb is an enclosed space for the repository of the remains of the dead. Traditionally tombs have been located in caves, underground, or in structures designed specifically for the purpose of containing the remains of deceased human beings and, often, their possessions, loved ones, or, as at the tomb known as `The Great Death Pit' at the city of Ur, one's servants. The Natufian Grave in Israel, which dates from c. 12,000 BCE, contained the remains of a man buried with his dog. Tombs have always been considered the homes of the dead and every tomb ever constructed was built with this concept in mind. The tomb is the final resting place of a dead person whose soul, however, would live on in another realm. Personal artifacts or pets were often interred with the deceased because it was thought they would be needed in the afterlife. The construction of a tomb would also reflect the status of the person buried there and the beliefs of a certain culture concerning the afterlife. Ancient cultures from Mesopotamia to Rome maintained that the dead lived on after life and ancient stories concerning ghosts (such as the one famously told by the Roman writer Pliny the Younger in c. 100 CE) have to do with the improper burial of the dead. Ancient inscriptions from cultures as diverse as Mesopotamia, China, Greece, and the Maya all cite the importance of a respectful burial and remembrance of the dead and the dire consequences of failing to do so.

Tombs in Ancient Egypt

The most elaborate tombs in ancient times were those built by the Egyptians for their kings, the pharaohs. Early on, the Egyptians built mastabas, tombs made of dried bricks which were then used to shore up shafts and chambers dug into the earth. In every mastaba there was a large room for ceremonies honoring the spirit of the deceased and an adjoining smaller room, the serdab, where a statue of the dead person would be placed so that the spirit could witness and enjoy the ceremonies. The mastaba continued as a tomb for the common people but for royalty it was replaced by the structure known as the pyramid. Commencing with the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, the royal pyramids would reach their height in splendor in the construction of the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza (built 2551-2528 BCE). The royal pyramids were adorned with paintings depicting the life and accomplishments of the deceased king and filled with all those necessities the spirit would need in the afterlife in the Field of Reeds. Pharoahs were interred in the area known as The Valley of the Kings and their tombs were elaborate eternal homes which reflected their status as divine rulers.

Mesopotamian Tombs

In ancient Mesopotamia tombs resembled the mastaba generally but, as in Egypt, the tombs of royalty were more ornate. Archaeological excavations carried out in the 1920s CE by C. Leonard Wooley uncovered the Royal Tombs of Ur in which were found many exquisite works composed of gold, lapis lazuli and carnelian (most notably the diadem of Queen Puabi). In the one tomb, dubbed 'The Great Death Pit' by Wooley, the bodies of six guards and 68 ladies-of-the-court were found. It is thought these were the favored of the king and were chosen to accompany him to the afterlife. The Mesopotamians, whether south in the region of Sumer or north in Akkad, were so concerned with the proper burial of the dead that they often built tombs inside, or next to, their homes so they could continue to care for the deceased and prevent the problems which arose from hauntings (this same practice was observed by the Mayan culture which also maintained a deep-seated fear of ghosts). Personal possessions were always included in these tombs as well as gifts, even modest ones, which were to be offered by the deceased to the gods of the underworld upon arrival there. Kings, of course, were laid to rest with more elaborate presents for the gods as the grave goods excavated throughout Mesopotamia attest.

Tombs of the Maya & King Pakal

The tombs of the Mayan rulers were constructed in much the same way as those of the kings of other cultures in that they were opulent in both style and structure and filled with all the necessities one might require in the afterlife. The walls of the tomb of King K'inich Janaab Pakal of Palenque (603-683 CE) were adorned with images of Pakal's transition from the earthly life to the realm of the gods and he was buried in an elaborately carved sarcophagus reflecting the same theme. Though some have claimed the carvings depict Pakal riding a rocket and are, therefore, proof of ancient alien interaction with the Maya, this theory is not considered tenable by the scholarly community. The carving on the sarcophagus which appears to some to be a rocket is recognized by scholars as the Tree of Life which Pakal is ascending to paradise. King Pakal, like other rulers, was given a tomb worthy of his stature and accomplishments and is thought to have been constructed by his subjects who considered him worthy of that honor. The tomb of the first emperor of China, however, was begun before his death and was built by the conscripted labor of workers from every province in the country.

Chinese Tombs & the Mausoleum of Shi Huangti

The tomb of Shi Huangti in China contained over 8,000 terra cotta warriors, their weapons, chariots, and horses so that the emperor would have a standing army at his command in the afterlife. This tomb, which rises to a height of 141 feet (43 metres) was first discovered in 1974 CE in the city of Xi'an and has yet to be excavated because of the fear of the various traps Shi Huangti is said to have devised to protect the vast treasure he was buried with. Over 700,000 workers were conscripted to build the tomb which was supposed to symbolize the world over which Shi Huangti reigned and would continue to rule in the afterlife. Other tombs in China, not nearly so grand in size or scope, also reflect the belief that the deceased would continue to exist in some form in another realm and could continue to exert influence on the living, for good or ill, depending on how their remains had been respected and how their memory continued to be honored.

Tombs in Greece

In Greece, the tombs of the wealthy were closely linked, architecturally, to the modern mausoleum in that they were often ornately decorated stone buildings housing the reclining dead. As the Greeks believed that remembrance of the dead was necessary for the continued existence of the spirit in the afterlife, Greek tombs frequently pictured the deceased in ordinary settings from life (such as sitting down to dinner, enjoying the company of friends or family) in order to remind the living of who that person was in life. Greeks commemorated the anniversary of a loved one's death by visiting their tomb and conversing with them, always making sure to speak their name to show the dead they were remembered. In Athens, below the Acropolis, the graves of common citizens depict the same sort of scenes as those of the more affluent and always toward the end of remembrance. Soldiers who were killed in action were commonly buried on the field in mass graves and one single marker (usually a monument naming the battle and the date) served to honor the fallen. It was up to the living, however, to keep the deceased's memory alive and frequently a marker would be erected by an individual's family toward that end and would serve in place of an actual tomb at the anniversary ceremony of one's death. Tombs from the Mycenaen Period (1900-1100 BCE) are known as tholos, or beehive, tombs which are thought to have been derived from early Minoan architectural advances on Crete. One of the most famous of these tholos tombs is the Treasury of Atreus (also known as the Tomb of Agamemnon, pictured above) which was built c. 1250 BCE.

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Neolithic Tombs of Scotland & Ireland

The tombs in Scotland, such as the grave passage tomb of Maeshowe in Orkney, show a remarkable similarity to those of ancient Greece, particularly the tholos tomb. The Tomb of the Eagles (also on Orkney) dates to 3000 BCE and was found to contain the bones of over 300 people buried there over time. Among the skeletal remains of human beings were those of over 700 white-tailed eagles which have given the tomb its name. No personal possessions were discovered in either of these tombs but that absence has been ascribed to ancient looting of graves. The Neolithic tombs throughout Scotland were all very purposefully designed, as in other cultures, as homes of the dead in the land of the dead. At Maeshowe, for example, to enter the tomb one would need to move aside a great stone and then descend down into the chamber which represented the nether world. This same construction and ideology can be seen in the famous passage tomb of Newgrange in Ireland which is one of the oldest tombs in the world (pre-dating the Pyramids of Giza and the Mycenaean Civilization in Greece) built between 3300-2900 BCE. Newgrange, like Maeshowe, was carefully constructed to admit a single ray of light into the darkness of the inner chamber at the winter solstice and this, it is thought, was to symbolize the eternal life of the deceased. The oldest passage tombs in Ireland are in Sligo County with the largest megalithic cemetery at Carrowmore. Other tombs throughout Ireland (known as dolmens) are constructed much along the same lines as the Carrowmore tombs. The Brownshill Dolmen in County Carlow follows the custom of a burial chamber in the earth but is distinguished by a capstone perched on upright megaliths weighing 100 metric tons (thought to be the heaviest stone in Europe) and the tomb known as The Mound of the Hostages, in Meath, is similar to Newgrange in that it was constructed (c. 3000 BCE) so that the rising sun, on certain days, lights up the interior burial chamber to symbolize re-birth and the light of life.

Tombs of Ancient India

This concept is equally present in the tombs of India where, originally, tombs were caves or carved into rock cliffs but, eventually, evolved into mausoleums which celebrated the life of the deceased and ensured their immortality through remembrance by the living. Cremation was the most common method of dealing with the remains of the dead in India and, for this reason, tombs were not employed to the same degree as they were in other cultures. Hindu religious beliefs encouraged cremation and the spreading of one's ashes but, with the introduction of Islam to the country, the importance of the physical remains of the deceased was emphasized and tombs became more widespread as a means of honoring and remembering the dead. The most famous example of this, though not an ancient one, is the Taj Majal built in 1631 CE by Shah Jahan for his wife.

Roman Tombs & Catacombs

Tombs in ancient Rome followed the same course of development as in Egypt and elsewhere, beginning with burial underground or in caves and evolving into more elaborate structures to house the dead. Roman tombs also celebrated the life of the individual but, unlike those of Greece or India, often featured inscriptions rather than sculpture or relief whereby the deeds of the deceased could be read and recited. Romans were buried in cemeteries which were located outside of the city in order to mark the divide between the land of the living and that of the dead. As in Mesopotamia, the Romans feared the return of the dead and ghosts, unless summoned through divination for a specific purpose, were considered a potent evil. Wealthy Romans were interred with great flourish in elaborate tombs while those of more modest means were laid to rest in caves outside the city or were cremated. Cremation of the dead was the most popular means of disposing of corpses and, afterwards, the ashes were held in an urn which was kept in a place of honor in the household. The rise of Christianity, however, and the new belief in the bodily resurrection of the dead, led to a decrease in cremations and, simply lacking room for the deceased in cemeteries, catacombs dug in the earth, with shelves for corpses in the walls, became the most common form of the tomb in ancient Rome.


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Khufu, Greek Cheops, (flourished 25th century bce ), second king of the 4th dynasty (c. 2575–c. 2465 bce ) of Egypt and builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza (see Pyramids of Giza), the largest single building to that time.

Khufu’s reign and that of his son Khafre were represented by the Greek historian Herodotus as 106 years of oppression and misery, but this was belied by Khufu’s posthumous reputation in Egypt as a wise ruler. Herodotus’s story of Khufu’s prostitution of his daughter in order to raise money for his building projects is clearly apocryphal.

Although few written sources remain, it is known that Khufu was the son and successor of King Snefru and his queen Hetepheres and was probably married four times: to Merityetes, who was buried in one of the three small pyramids beside his own to a second queen, whose name is unknown to Henutsen, whose small pyramid is the third of the group and to Nefert-kau, the eldest of Snefru’s daughters. Two of his sons, Redjedef and Khafre, succeeded him in turn.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Zeidan, Assistant Editor.


In 1938, a team of archaeologists is searching for the tomb of pharaoh Ahkmenrah in Egypt. With the group is a young Cecil "C.J" Fredericks, who accidentally falls into the tomb and discovers the Tablet of Ahkmenrah. As the rest of the team starts packing up the artifacts due to an incoming sandstorm, the locals warn the group that if they remove the tablet from the tomb, then "the end will come."

Seventy-six years later in New York City, Larry Daley remains the night guard of the American Museum of Natural History. He and the other exhibits are hosting an event to help re-open the Hayden Planetarium. As Larry makes sure everything is in place for the event, the other exhibits inform him that the museum commissioned a new Neanderthal model that resembles Larry. The new Neanderthal takes the name Laaa and identifies Larry as his father. Later, Ahkmenrah pulls Larry aside and shows him that the tablet is suffering from a mysterious corrosion. That night, the corrosion spreads on the tablet, causing all of the exhibits to act abnormally and cause massive chaos at the planetarium. After finally calming everyone down, Larry returns home frustrated and catches his now teenage son Nick throwing a house party.

To try and figure out what is going on with the tablet, Larry reunites with the now retired Cecil, who he discovered was part of the expedition who discovered the tomb. Cecil remembers "the end will come" prophecy and realizes that it was referring to the end of the tablet's magic, which will cause the exhibits to become lifeless. Cecil explains that Ahkmenrah's parents, Merenkahre and Shepseheret, may be able to restore the tablet's power but that they are located in the British Museum. Larry convinces the museum's curator Dr. McPhee, who was fired due to the planetarium incident, to let him ship Ahkmenrah to London to restore the tablet, although McPhee is still under the impression that the magic is just clever special effects. Larry and Nick travel to the British Museum, bypassing the night guard Tilly. To Larry's surprise, some of the other American exhibits stowed away with Ahkmenrah: Theodore Roosevelt, Sacagawea, Attila the Hun, miniatures Jedediah and Octavius, Dexter the capuchin monkey, and Laaa. Larry convinces Laaa to stay behind and stand guard while the others search the museum, as he believes Laaa is an idiot who will just get in the way. As the others go through the museum, the tablet brings the British exhibits to life.

The group is joined by a wax figure of Sir Lancelot, who helps them fight off aggressive museum exhibits like a Triceratops skeleton and a Xiangliu statue. Throughout their journey, the corrosion worsens, and the American exhibits begin to experience side effects such as stiffening limbs and memory reversion. Jedediah and Octavius fall through a ventilation shaft but are rescued from an erupting Pompeii model by Dexter. The group find Ahkmenrah's parents, learning the tablet's power can be regenerated by moonlight, since it is empowered through the magic of Khonsu. Lancelot steals the tablet, mistaking it for the Holy Grail, and prepares to leave for Camelot. Larry and Laaa are locked in the employee break room by Tilly, but they escape with the help of Attila. Laaa remains behind to distract Tilly, during which time they become attracted to each other.

Lancelot crashes a performance of the musical Camelot, starring Hugh Jackman and Alice Eve as King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, and is stunned to realize that unlike the other exhibits, Lancelot and Camelot are not real. Larry and the others catch up and chase him to the theatre's roof, where the corrosion almost consumes the entire tablet. Teddy, Attila, Sacagawea, Jed, and Octavius mostly turn back into wax Ahkmenrah starts decomposing back into a dead mummy and Dexter dies, as he was a real taxidermied animal. Larry tells Lancelot that he needs to align the pieces of the tablet so the moonlight can fix it, otherwise Lancelot and all the other exhibits will die. Larry tells him that although Camelot might not be real, Lancelot really is due to the tablet's magic, and that he does really have a life that he can live. Lancelot finally understands and gives the tablet back, and Larry straightens the pieces. The moonlight restores the tablet's power and restores the exhibits to full health. As the American exhibits prepare to return home, they decide that Ahkmenrah and his tablet should stay at the London Museum with his parents, even though this means the New York exhibits will no longer come to life. Larry is upset, but they all inform him that they are at peace with their unanimous decision. Ahkmenrah thanks Larry for reuniting him with his family, and the American exhibits go home. Back in New York, Larry spends some final moments with his friends before the sun rises, and then he leaves the museum for the last and final time.

Three years later, Larry now works as a school teacher, and giving McPhee his job back. Tilly becomes the new night guard of the British Museum and brings a traveling exhibit comes to New York in a collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History. In McPhee's office, Tilly hands the tablet to McPhee, showing him its power and allowing the exhibits to awaken again as they throw a huge party. From across the street, Larry quietly observes the celebration and smiles.

    as Larry Daley, a security guard at the American Museum of Natural History. [4]
    • Stiller also plays Laaa, a Neanderthal who resembles Larry.
      plays the younger Cecil "C.J" Fredericks

    Voices Edit

    On January 21, 2010, co-writer Thomas Lennon said to Access Hollywood, "I think it's a really outstanding idea to do Night at the Museum 3, in fact. I wonder if someone's not even already working on a script for that. I cannot confirm that for a fact, but I cannot deny it for a fact either. It might be in the works." [8] In an October 2011 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Stiller confirmed the sequel, however, he said that it was only in the "ideas stage". [9] In February 2013 it was announced that the film, directed by Shawn Levy, would be released on December 25, 2014. [10] On September 10, 2013, it was announced that shooting would start in February 2014. [11]

    On November 8, 2013, actor Dan Stevens was cast as Lancelot. [5] On November 15, 2013, it was announced that Skyler Gisondo would be replacing Jake Cherry in the role of Nicky Daley. [7] On December 18, 2013, it was announced that Stiller, Robin Williams, and Ricky Gervais would be returning for the sequel. [12] On January 9, 2014, it was announced that Rebel Wilson would play a security guard in the British Museum. [4] On January 14, 2014, the film's release date was moved up from December 25, 2014, to December 19, 2014. [13] On January 23, 2014, it was announced Ben Kingsley would play an Egyptian Pharaoh at the British Museum. [14] Principal photography and production began on January 27, 2014. [15] On May 6, 2014, it was announced that the film would be titled Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. [16] In May 2014, principal photography ended. [17] Shooting took place outside the British Museum in London, England, as well as on a sound stage at the Vancouver Film Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia for scenes taking place inside the museum.

    Alan Silvestri returned to score the final installment of the trilogy. [18] [19]

    Track listing Edit

    Varèse Sarabande released a soundtrack album of the score on January 6, 2015. [20] [21] [22]

    All tracks are written by Alan Silvestri.

    Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    No. TitleLength
    1."The Ahkmenrah Expedition"3:34
    2."Performance Prep"2:02
    4."The Grand Re-Opening"3:13
    5."The End Will Come"2:19
    6."Sneak And Greet"3:25
    7."Sir Lancelot"3:33
    8."Where Are Jed And Octavius?"2:50
    9."Main Hall"3:24
    11."Male Bonding"2:15
    12."The Legend of the Tablet"3:11
    13."The Escher Fight"3:45
    15."The Quest"2:35
    16."Seeing Your Boy Become A Man"3:14
    17."Laaa Love"1:53
    18."A Farewell Kiss"2:40
    19."Teddy's Goodbye"3:02
    Total length: 56:52

    1. "Also sprach Zarathustra" By Richard Strauss.
    2. "Wizard" By Martin Garrix and Jay Hardway.
    3. "Shake Your Groove Thing" By Peaches & Herb.
    4. "London Calling" By The Clash.
    5. "Dancing Queen" By A-Teens.
    6. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" By Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.
    7. "Got to Be Real" By Cheryl Lynn.
    8. "Let's Go" By Tiesto featuring Icona Pop.

    The film premiered at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City on December 11, 2014. [23] It was then released on December 19, 2014 in the United States. [24]

    Box office Edit

    Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb grossed $113.7 million in North America, and $249.5 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $363.2 million against a budget of $127 million. [2]

    In North America, early analysts were predicting a potential $25–$28 million opening. [25] [26] In North America, the film was released on December 19, 2014 across 3,785 theaters. [27] It opened Friday, December 19, 2014 and earned $5.6 million on its opening day, placing at number three at the box office. [28] The film underperformed expectations during its opening weekend, earning $17.1 million, which was relatively lower than the openings of the original film ($30.4 million) and its sequel ($54.1 million). [29] The film debuted at number two at the box office behind The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. [30] According to 20th Century Fox, the movie's audience was 51% male, with 54% of the audience under the age of 25. In CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, cinema audiences gave the film an average grade of "B+", on an A+ to F scale. [30]

    The film began its international rollout the same weekend as the North American premiere and earned $10.4 million from 27 markets in its opening weekend, debuting at #3 behind at the box office behind The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and Penguins of Madagascar. [31] [32] [33] [34] The film expanded to an additional 40 markets in its second week and grossed $31.2 million. [35] It topped the box office outside North America in its fourth weekend with a total gross of $46.2 million, primarily because of China, where it opened at #1 with $26 million. [36] The other highest opening figures were from Mexico ($5.85 million), Brazil ($3.1 million), Malaysia ($3.07 million), the UK ($3 million), Australia ($2.8 million), Germany ($2.1 million) and Singapore ($2 million). [35] [31] [37]

    For the weekend of January 16, 2015, the film grossed $17.8 million, which includes a $3.9 million debut in South Korea. [38]

    Critical response Edit

    On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 47% approval rating, based on 104 reviews, with an average score of 5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "While not without its moments, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is a less-than-inspired sendoff for the trilogy." [39] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 47 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". [40] In CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, cinema audiences gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale. [30]

    Scott Foundas of Variety gave the film a positive review, praising the visual effects and calling the production values "topnotch", and admiring Guillermo Navarro's work. He added, "A most enjoyable capper to director Shawn Levy and producer Chris Columbus' cheerfully silly and sneakily smart family-entertainment juggernaut. offers little in the way of secrets of surprises, but should add much holiday cheer to Fox's box-office coffers." [41] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film three stars out of five and said, "The third part in what absolutely no one is calling the Night at the Museum 'trilogy' turns out to be a good-natured and entertainingly surreal panto fantasy." [42] Glenn Kenny awarded the film 2½ stars out of 4 praising the Indiana Jones themed-set while criticizing the performances of the cast and said, "As talent-packed as any Night at the Museum picture may be—in this third installment. —one doesn't come to a movie of this sort expecting anybody's best work. Or at least one certainly shouldn't, because it won't materialize." [43] Stephanie Zacharek of The Village Voice gave the film a positive review, saying "The third installment, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb may be the best, and even the generally wound-too-tight Ben Stiller – once again playing a bemused Museum of Natural History guard – is easy to tolerate." [44] Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "Where the previous films felt frenetic and forced, this outing feels breezier, more enjoyable and less contrived." [45] Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News gave the film three out of five stars, saying "There's a serenity to museum visits, especially if it's a place you know and love. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, amazingly, recaptures that feeling in big-studio franchise form." [46]

    Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic gave the film two out of five stars, saying "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is a rather lackluster affair, a cash grab that tries to aim a little higher but confuses sappy shortcuts with real emotion." [47] Joe McGovern of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B, saying "It's kind of fun, unembarrassingly, and not least of all because the people who made it look like they had a good time doing so." [48] Tom Long of The Detroit News gave the film a B, saying "There are some key elements that make this Night at the Museum sequel work better than its predecessor." [49] Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger gave the film two out of four stars, saying "The exhibits in this Night at the Museum may still come to life nightly. But their latest movie stays stubbornly inert." [50] Tom Russo of The Boston Globe gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "Seeing Ben Stiller, the late Robin Williams, and their magically roused gang together again, this time in London, is initially all about indulgent, nostalgic smiles rather than new wows. But then comes the movie's exceptionally clever and fresh final act, which delivers genuine surprise along with many laughs." [51] Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph gave the film three out of five stars, saying "The third Night at the Museum film starts strongly, with its heart in the past. It's an exciting opening, and perhaps too exciting for the film's own good. It's hard not to be disappointed when the plot moves back to the present and settles into the time-honoured formula of digitised creatures running riot and famous people in fancy dress doing shtick." [52] Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a negative review, saying "Despite relocating across the pond to the esteemed British Museum, the creaky Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb fails to capitalize on the comic potential provided by that change of venue." [53]

    Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club gave the film a C+, saying "Secret of the Tomb plays it as a source of corny jokes, pop-culture references, and father-son bonding moments. In other words, it's exactly the kind of film that shouldn't be expected to engage with its assorted bizarre subtexts – but what a movie it could be if it did." [54] Sara Stewart of the New York Post gave the film two out of four stars, saying "For piquing kids' interest in history and nature, you could do worse than this goofy Ben Stiller franchise. But its third installment is more meh than manic, too reliant on wide shots of the ragtag Museum of Natural History cohorts striding down corridors. You get the feeling returning director Shawn Levy is ready to hang it up." [55] Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one and a half stars out of five, saying "The dialogue is schmaltzy and often painfully unfunny. The special effects are often so 1980s-bad, one wonders if it was a deliberate choice, to make the creepy visuals of sculptures dancing and paintings moving less frightening to young viewers. Time and again, terrific actors sink in the equivalent of cinematic quicksand, helpless against the sucking sound of this movie." [56] Drew Hunt of Slant Magazine gave the film one out of four stars, saying "None of the entries in the Night at the Museum series could ever pass for high art, but a wealth of comedic talent gave the first two installments a madcap energy that somewhat forgave their childish premises. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, the third and supposedly final edition in the franchise, is nothing more than an uncomfortably transparent contractual obligation." [57]

    Animated reboot/sequel Edit

    In August 2019, following the purchase of 21st Century Fox and its assets by Disney, The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger announced that a reboot of Night at the Museum is in development. The project will release as a Disney+ exclusive film, as a co-production between Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and 20th Century Studios. [58] [59]

    In October 2020, the movie was officially titled Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again. The project will be CGI-animated and is scheduled to be released in 2021. [60] The plot centers around Larry's son, Nick, who is hesitant to follow on his father's footsteps as night watchman. [60] In addition to Nick and the titular villain, the movie will also feature returning characters: Jedediah, Octavius, Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt (a new actor in place of Robin Williams) with the addition of Joan of Arc as well. Production began on November 2, 2020. [60]

    Spin-offs Edit

    In August 2018, CEO of 20th Century Fox Stacey Snider announced that a television series based on Night at the Museum was in development. [61] Following the acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney, many of Fox's projects were shelved.

    In October 2020, The DisInsider announced that a live-action theatrical film is in the early stages of development. [60]

    Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
    Teen Choice Awards Choice Comedy Movie Nominated [62]
    Choice Comedy Movie Actor Ben Stiller Nominated
    Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Movie Actor Ben Stiller Won [63] [64]

    Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb was released on Blu-ray and DVD on March 10, 2015. [65] The film debuted in second place on the home media charts behind The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. [66]

    Tomb Raider History – Celebrating 20 Years of Lara Croft

    One of the most readily identifiable icons in the games industry, Lara Croft has been enthralling PlayStation gamers since 1996 with her Indiana Jones style escapades, quick wit and fearsome gunplay (though, let’s not talk about the those two movies eh?).

    With the highly anticipated Shadow of the Tomb Raider finally arriving on PlayStation 4, it seems only proper that we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of this beloved franchise by charting its history through the four generations of PlayStation home console hardware.

    After all, it’s what Lara would want.

    Tomb Raider History – Tomb Raider – PSOne (1996)

    Actually released months earlier on the Sega Saturn (the curs!) before it would make its PlayStation debut on PSOne in 1996, this is where it all started. Developed by British coding outfit Core Design, few people had any sort of inkling that Tomb Raider would end up having the seismic impact on the industry that it did.

    With its fully realised and openly explorable 3D worlds that placed as much a premium on precision platforming as puzzle solving and foe-blasting, Tomb Raider was a true revelation for the time and allowed PlayStation owners to stick two fingers up at their smug, Nintendo 64 owning counterparts and their ceaseless bleating about Super Mario 64 .

    There were just so many unforgettable moments too from doing handstands in the immaculately designed St. Francis Folly, to escaping a charging T-Rex in the Lost World level, Tomb Raider stuck long in the memory long after the credits had rolled. More than that, Tomb Raider also introduced the world to Lara Croft, a quick-witted, hugely capable protagonist who became the first female gaming icon that would leave her mark on the industry for years to come.

    Tomb Raider History – Tomb Raider II – PSOne (1997)

    Hot on the heels of the groundbreaking original, Tomb Raider II released just one year later on Sony’s PSOne home console. Whisking players off to such grand locations as Venice and the Great Wall of China, Tomb Raider II still had players leaping about the place, solving puzzles and collecting relics but this time upped the stakes with the gun combat side of things, introducing a speargun, grenade launcher and an assault rifle.

    The shift to a larger arsenal also brought with it a change in enemies too, since while you still tangled with various wildlife, Tomb Raider II also had you going up against a range of gun-toting goons in a nice change of pace. Though unable to capture lightning in the bottle in the same way that the first Tomb Raider game did, Tomb Raider II nonetheless stood as an entertaining, if somewhat safe sequel that fans were well served by.

    Oh, and something else that was new in Tomb Raider II was if you bumped into Lara’s eternally-suffering butler in the mansion training map, he’d groan, or, if you were really lucky, bust out a fart. So that was nice.

    Tomb Raider History – Tomb Raider III – PSOne (1998)

    By the time Tomb Raider III came around in 1998, it’s probably fair to say that PlayStation owners were becoming a little tired of the same old shtick. Though the variety of new South Pacific focused locales to adventure about in was greatly appreciated, the innovations seen elsewhere were thin on the ground to say the least.

    Of the new elements, a crawling move was perhaps the most significant as it allowed level designers to fashion worlds with many more nooks and crannies for Lara to sneak into, while the introduction of a stamina-sapping sprint move on the other hand, simply felt too much like an afterthought.

    One big problem though for many, was that in Tomb Raider III you actually spent far less time in actual tombs than in the previous two games in the series. Indeed, by largely substituting the dusty and ornate tombs of antiquity for more modern and urban themed environments, Tomb Raider III lacked both the sense of place and adventure that the first two games had in spades.

    By no means was Tomb Raider III a bad game though it was simply an example of how as the years went by, Tomb Raider was slipping further and further away from the heady caliber that so well defined the 1996 original. A pity.

    Tomb Raider History – Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation – PSOne (1999)

    Taking onboard the apathy that some players greeted Tomb Raider III with, those busy bods over at Core Design decided to freshen things up with Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation. With a new animation system allowing Lara to do more moves such as swinging off ropes and shimmy around corners (it was a big thing back then!), the ability to save anywhere and being allowed to tackle levels in a non-linear order, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation certainly did more new things than its immediate prequel did.

    In terms of locations, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation further elevated itself above Tomb Raider III, as it took players out of the dingy contemporary settings of its predecessor and transported them to a wide variety of tombs set across Egypt, Ankor Wat and many more places besides. Despite such advancements however, the overwhelming feeling of familiarity was undeniable at this point, since Core Design seemed more and more like a developer who was comfortable for chucking out new levels for a game they made in 1996, rather than creating a brand new one for 1999.

    Tomb Raider History – Tomb Raider Chronicles – PSOne (2000)

    A direct continuation to The Last Revelation, Tomb Raider: Chronicles not only failed to build upon the new features introduced in that game, but it actually regressed in a number of ways, with one sticking point being that, again, many of the levels in the game took place in modern settings rather than, y’know, tombs.

    For a series whose founding touchstones were innovation and boldness, Chronicles capped off Tomb Raider’s stint on PSOne in the most ignoble of ways. Sloppy and by-the-numbers in the most frustrating way, Tomb Raider Chronicles was proof that Core Design had no idea where to take Lara Croft and her tomb raiding shenanigans next. Sadly, this bespoke lack of direction and focus was something that would unfortunately bleed over onto Core Design’s next (and final) Tomb Raider title, too.

    Tomb Raider History – Tomb Raider The Angel of Darkness – PS2 (2003)

    After a three year break and a shift to a whole new generation of PlayStation hardware, Tomb Raider The Angel of Darkness finally arrived on PS2 in the summer of 2003 with a great deal of marketing fanfare and player anticipation behind it. With fresh hardware on tap, Core Design used Angel of Darkness to experiment with a number of different gameplay elements such as an RPG style progression system (something that would be seen again ten years later!), new stealth mechanics and a dialogue system that would affect how narrative events played out later in the game.

    Lara too, as the title suggests, found herself pushed into darker and more edgy material as The Angel of Darkness takes place immediately after the events of The Last Revelation and Chronicles whereupon Lara was previously presumed dead. On paper then, Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness looks like it had all the pieces of the puzzle in place to set things up for a triumphant series debut on PS2 sadly however, it all just didn’t come together properly.

    Summarily undone by poor AI, an unreliable control system, unstable frame rate and the general feeling that Angel of Darkness simply couldn’t hang with other peers in the genre, the title marked the end of developer Core Design’s stewardship of the Tomb Raider franchise, with the veteran codehouse closing down just three years later. A sad end to a great British developer and an even poorer introduction of the franchise to PS2.

    Tomb Raider History – Tomb Raider Legend – PS2, PS3 (2006)

    A reboot in every sense of the word, American developer Crystal Dynamics (Legacy of Kain) were given the reins by publisher Eidos Interactive to reinvigorate the Tomb Raider franchise, and that’s exactly what they did. One of the highest critically rated entries in the entire series, and the most commercially successful effort since Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, Tomb Raider Legend boldly re-imagined everything about the franchise from the platforming to the gunplay with substantial aplomb.

    Even Lara herself was given a makeover now voiced British actress Keeley Hawes (Life on Mars, Bodyguard), Ms. Croft not only looked different but she was also more relatable too, shedding the overly aloof aura that she had in previous games and replacing it with a more wise-cracking and personable take on the character. In short, Tomb Raider Legend was the real deal (it was especially good on PSP too!) and as such it was great to have Lara Croft back on top form.

    Tomb Raider History – Tomb Raider Anniversary – PS2, PS3 (2007)

    Using an enhanced version of the game engine that was previously employed in Tomb Raider Legend, 2007’s Tomb Raider Anniversary, the second Tomb Raider title from Crystal Dynamics was one that looked to the series past, rather than attempting to define its future. A re-imagining of Lara Croft’s inaugural Tomb Raider adventure from eleven years earlier, Tomb Raider Anniversary took all the iconic moments of the 1996 classic and brought them up to date for a contemporary audience.

    Dodgy camera angles and switch puzzles aside, Anniversary nonetheless gave a good account of itself. Essentially, it provided long-time Tomb Raider fans who matured alongside the series with a great take on the original game, whilst also allowing Crystal Dynamics some creative breathing room to think of something more bespoke for their third crack at the franchise. Sadly, though received pretty well by critics, Tomb Raider Anniversary ended up being the least commercially successful of any game in the series, only shifting just over 1.4 million copies.

    Tomb Raider History – Tomb Raider Underworld – PS2, PS3 (2008)

    The cap to Crystal Dynamics’ first trilogy, Tomb Raider Underworld was arguably the darkest entry in the franchise up to this point. Kicking things off by forcing Lara to escape from a burning Croft mansion, the narrative would hop chronologically between events that occurred just after Tomb Raider Legend and the present day before finally resolving the mystery behind her mother in suitably emotional and dramatic fashion.

    In terms of the game itself, Tomb Raider Underworld employed sophisticated motion-capture techniques to make Lara’s animations seem more life-like than ever before, while the gunplay had been refreshed with a new mechanic that would allow Lara to aim at two different targets at once.

    Annoyingly, the PS3 version of Tomb Raider Underworld never received the DLC which released for the Xbox 360 version of the game because Microsoft had apparently stumped up the necessary scratch to make it exclusive to their console – lovely. Oh, and the PS2 version of Tomb Raider Underworld, riddled with bugs, poor visuals and overly simplistic gameplay, was a was total pile of cack at the time so yeah, avoid that version like the plague if you ever see it.

    Tomb Raider History – Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light – PS3 (2010)

    It’s fair to say that when Lara Croft resurfaced after a two-year hiatus, she did so in a form that many didn’t recognise. Trading in Tomb Raider’s typical over-the-shoulder perspective for an isometric, arcade style viewpoint, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light made sure that fans knew that they weren’t looking at the next Tomb Raider game, but instead at something very different.

    Liberally borrowing from the likes of Diablo , twin-stick shooters such as Smash TV and then infusing that marriage with the platforming ‘n’ guns trappings that Tomb Raider fans had come to love, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light proved to be grand detour for the series. In addition to packing in a detailed progression system, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light also boasted multiplayer – a first for the series, where two players take control of Lara and her Mayan warrior buddy Totec using their unique abilities to progress through the adventure.

    A great little game in its own right, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light provided yet further proof that Crystal Dynamics were not only far from being creatively bankrupt, but that they were also the right choice for custodians of one of gaming’s most revered franchises.

    Tomb Raider History – Tomb Raider – PS3, PS4 (2013-2014)

    It would be over three years before PlayStation fans got to see the indomitable Ms. Croft again, but when we did see her, she starred in the second reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise and one that shook things up even more deeply than when Crystal Dynamics took things over back in 2006.

    A decidedly more gritty adventure, tonally speaking, Tomb Raider felt far more akin to a horror movie such as The Descent , simply because it depicted a young Lara in a whole new and much more grim light. No longer was she the headstrong, seemingly invincible countess that previous games had made her out to be instead, she was vulnerable, inexperienced and in seemingly permanent violent peril throughout, all of which added up to what was a hugely fresh revision of her established character.

    In the game proper, Crystal Dynamics basically built the whole experience from the ground up adding in some brand new hunting and survival mechanics, an RPG style progression system that granted extra abilities, a proper stealth-based combat system and finally, a competitive multiplayer mode that tapped into the progress made in the single-player campaign.

    Releasing a few months after the PS3 version of the game, Tomb Raider arrived on the PS4 as Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition the consummate version of the game that not only included a massive visual upgrade over its PS3 counterpart, but all of the released DLC chucked into the bargain as well. Tomb Raider felt in many ways like the sum of everything that the series had always wanted to achieve, and other developers who find themselves looking for an example of how a reboot should be done need not look further than 2013’s Tomb Raider.

    Tomb Raider History – Lara Croft and the Tomb of Osiris – PS4 (2014)

    Continuing the tradition of spinning Lara Croft off into an isometric, Diablo style effort with added platforming elements, Lara Croft and The Tomb of Osiris continued the fine work that Guardian of Light had started on PS3 some four years earlier.

    Taking players to the wind-swept deserts and pyramid tombs of Ancient Egypt, Lara Croft and the Tomb of Osiris expanded the co-operative play of 2010’s Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light by allowing up to four players to blast through its story campaign. Boasting a fine mix of puzzles, gunplay and adventure elements, Lara Croft and the Tomb of Osiris, though not spectacular, nonetheless helped to soothe the wait until the wily British heroine would make her proper return in Rise of the Tomb Raider two years later on PS4.

    Tomb Raider History – Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration – PS4 (2016)

    Originally launched on the Xbox One back in holiday 2015, Rise of the Tomb Raider hit PS4 with an assortment of extra bells and whistles. Marking the franchise’s 20th anniversary—blimey, we feel old—Lara’s latest adventure built on the successful formula established in the critically acclaimed 2013 reboot. Set a few years after the origins story, Rise of the Tomb Raider sees the dexterous trinket-pincher exploring the Siberian wastelands in search of a mythical city known as Kitezh, while pursed by a band of dodgy mercenary types known as Trinity.

    Once again, Lara has to fend for herself in the harsh conditions by cobbling together weapon parts and resources to craft makeshift tools and healing items. While not radically different to its predecessor when you get down to the core gameplay, Rise of the Tomb Raider kicks things up a gear with its pulse-pounding set pieces and sumptuous visuals, which complement the beautifully crafted locations and dusty challenge tombs. Lara’s also learned a few new tricks since her last adventure, and the meaty combat remains as satisfying as ever as you wield bows, pistols, shotguns, rifles, and more against blood-thirsty wildlife and mean-spirited goons.

    The best part? The 20 Year Celebration edition is packed to the rafters with extra content, ranging from DLC, extra costumes, plus two brand new chapters in the shape of the story-focused Blood Ties and the zombie-blasting mini-game, Lara’s Nightmare. Throw in a ton of collectibles within the main campaign, a neat co-op Endurance mode, and you have a triumphant sequel that simply cannot be missed.

    Tomb Raider History – Shadow of the Tomb Raider – PS4 (2018)

    The seemingly final entry in the new Tomb Raider reboot trilogy, Shadow of the Tomb Raider finds Lara Croft in a dark place indeed. Left frantic by her failed efforts to destroy Trinity once and for all, she embarks on a global hunt to stop the Illuminati organisation from bringing about the apocalypse, all the while attempting to preserve her own humanity in the process.

    Boasting some of the best visuals ever seen in a Tomb Raider game, alongside newly reinstated underwater sequences, some absolutely cracking puzzles and not to mention the best challenge tombs in any game of the series, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a more than effective closer to this current trilogy. Going forward however, the series will have to make another evolutionary leap if it wishes to stay relevant – much as it has done before.

    And that’s our history of Tomb Raider on PlayStation! Are there any favorites that you have, or any entries in the series that you especially dislike? Let us know in the comments below!

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    Dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

    Exactly three years after the end of World War I, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is dedicated at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia during an Armistice Day ceremony presided over by President Warren G. Harding.

    Two days before, an unknown American soldier, who had fallen somewhere on a World War I battlefield, arrived at the nation’s capital from a military cemetery in France. On Armistice Day, in the presence of President Harding and other government, military, and international dignitaries, the unknown soldier was buried with highest honors beside the Memorial Amphitheater. As the soldier was lowered to his final resting place, a two-inch layer of soil brought from France was placed below his coffin so that he might rest forever atop the earth on which he died.

    The Tomb of the Unknown Solider is considered the most hallowed grave at Arlington Cemetery, America’s most sacred military cemetery. The tombstone itself, designed by sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones, was not completed until 1932, when it was unveiled bearing the description “Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Soldier Known but to God.” The World War I unknown was later joined by the unidentified remains of soldiers from America’s other major 20th century wars and the tomb was put under permanent guard by special military sentinels.

    In 1998, a Vietnam War unknown, who was buried at the tomb for 14 years, was disinterred from the Tomb after DNA testing indicated his identity. Air Force Lieutenant Michael Blassie was returned to his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, and was buried with military honors, including an F-15 jet “missing man” flyover and a lone bugler sounding taps.

    Archaeologist opens tomb of King Tut

    On February 16, 1923, in Thebes, Egypt, English archaeologist Howard Carter enters the sealed burial chamber of the ancient Egyptian ruler King Tutankhamen.

    Because the ancient Egyptians saw their pharaohs as gods, they carefully preserved their bodies after death, burying them in elaborate tombs containing rich treasures to accompany the rulers into the afterlife. In the 19th century, archeologists from all over the world flocked to Egypt, where they uncovered a number of these tombs. Many had long ago been broken into by robbers and stripped of their riches.

    When Carter arrived in Egypt in 1891, he became convinced there was at least one undiscovered tomb–that of the little known Tutankhamen, or King Tut, who lived around 1400 B.C. and died when he was still a teenager. Backed by a rich Brit, Lord Carnarvon, Carter searched for five years without success. In early 1922, Lord Carnarvon wanted to call off the search, but Carter convinced him to hold on one more year.

    In November 1922, the wait paid off, when Carter’s team found steps hidden in the debris near the entrance of another tomb. The steps led to an ancient sealed doorway bearing the name Tutankhamen. When Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered the tomb’s interior chambers on November 26, they were thrilled to find it virtually intact, with its treasures untouched after more than 3,000 years. The men began exploring the four rooms of the tomb, and on February 16, 1923, under the watchful eyes of a number of important officials, Carter opened the door to the last chamber.

    The Society of the Honor Guard

    The Society is a non-profit association organized expressly for and wholly committed to preserving the unique history of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Tomb), honoring and remembering the service and sacrifice of the Unknown servicemen buried on the east plaza of the Memorial Amphitheater as well as the empty crypt dedicated to our nations missing, and protecting and enhancing the welfare and image of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (alternative reference as, Tomb Guards) past and present.

    The mission of the Society is to:

    • To honor the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
    • To recognize past and present Tomb Guards who demonstrate exemplary service at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
    • To protect, uphold, preserve and keep safe from exploitation, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Identification Badge (TGIB).
    • To maintain and conduct an organization that will further develop the camaraderie and common bond existing among those who served with, and shoulder to shoulder besides, the Tomb Guards, and their families.
    • To preserve and maintain records and publish the history of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Authenticate and recognize the achievements of the Tomb Guards.
    • To educate the citizenry of the United States of America of the service and sacrifice of the Unknown Soldiers, and the duty performed by the active Tomb Guards, while perpetuating the memory of former Tomb Guards.
    • To maintain close liaison with the Tomb Guard Platoon, Arlington National Cemetery and the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), Fort Myer, Virginia

    The goal of the Society is to make certain that the individuals that made the ultimate sacrifice of their life for our freedom are not forgotten, and that the general public understands this price of freedom.

    The membership of the Society is made up of former and current Tomb Guards, and individuals and organizations who have an affinity for the Society mission.

    The Society welcomes the opportunity to share our mission through our community outreach programs and events. And we encourage the participation of anyone interested in volunteering or donating in support of our mission.

    Finding King Herod’s Tomb

    Shielding my eyes from the glare of the morning sun, I look toward the horizon and the small mountain that is my destination: Herodium, site of the fortified palace of King Herod the Great. I'm about seven miles south of Jerusalem, not far from the birthplace of the biblical prophet Amos, who declared: "Let justice stream forth like water." Herod's reign over Judea from 37 to 4 B.C. is not remembered for justice but for its indiscriminate cruelty. His most notorious act was the murder of all male infants in Bethlehem to prevent the fulfillment of a prophecy heralding the birth of the Messiah. There is no record of the decree other than the Gospel of Matthew, and biblical scholars debate whether it actually took place, but the story is in keeping with a man who arranged the murders of, among others, three of his own sons and a beloved wife.

    Long an object of scholarly as well as popular fascination, Herodium, also called Herodion, was first positively identified in 1838 by the American scholar Edward Robinson, who had a knack for locating biblical landmarks. After scaling the mountain and comparing his observations with those of the first century Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus, Robinson concluded that "all these particulars. leave scarcely a doubt, that this was Herodium, where the [Judean] tyrant sought his last repose." Robinson's observation was confirmed later that century by Conrad Schick, the famous German architect and archaeologist who conducted extensive surveys of Jerusalem and its nearby sites.

    But where precisely was the king entombed? At the summit of Herodium? At the base? Inside the mountain itself? Josephus didn't say. By the late 1800s, Herod's tomb had become one of biblical archaeology's most sought-after prizes. And for more than a century archaeologists scoured the site. Finally, in 2007, Ehud Netzer of Hebrew University announced that after 35 years of archaeological work he had found Herod's resting place. The news made headlines worldwide—"A New Discovery May Solve the Mystery of the Bible's Bloodiest Tyrant," trumpeted the London Daily Mail.

    "In terms of size, quality of decoration and prominence of its position, it's hard to reach any other conclusion," says Jodi Magness, an archaeologist in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has excavated at other sites where Herod oversaw construction projects. Ken Holum, a University of Maryland archaeologist and historian who served as a curator for the traveling Smithsonian exhibition "King Herod's Dream," cautions that "it is always wise to be less than certain when there is no identifying inscription or other explicit identification." But he says he personally believes Netzer has indeed discovered Herod's tomb.

    Netzer, 75, is one of Israel's best-known archaeologists and a renowned authority on Herod. Trained as an architect, he worked as an assistant to the archaeologist Yigael Yadin, who from 1963 to 1965 led an exhaustive dig at Masada, the fortified plateau near the Dead Sea where Herod built two palaces. In 1976, Netzer led a team that discovered the site of one of Herod's infamous misdeeds: the murder of his young brother-in-law, Aristobulus, whom Herod ordered to be drowned in a pool at his winter palace complex near Jericho. Yet the discovery of Herod's tomb would be Netzer's most celebrated find. And as is often the case with such discoveries, Netzer found it where, for years, he least expected it.

    Arriving at Herodium, which is not only an active archaeological site but also, since the late 1960s, a national park, I drive partway up the mountain to the parking lot where I will meet Netzer. In the early 1980s, before the first intifada turned the West Bank into a conflict zone, Herodium drew some 250,000 people per year. For the moment I'm the sole visitor. At a kiosk I buy a ticket that lets me ascend on foot to the summit. At the base of the mountain the remains of a royal complex, known as Lower Herodium, sprawl across nearly 40 acres. Gone are the homes, gardens and stables the most recognizable structure is an immense pool, 220 by 150 feet, which is graced with a center island.

    A narrow trail hugging the hillside leads me to an opening in the slope, where I enter an enormous cistern now part of a route to the summit, more than 300 feet above the surrounding countryside. The air inside is pleasantly cool, and the walls are smooth and dry, with patches of original plaster. I follow a network of tunnels dug during the second Jewish revolt against the Romans in A.D. 135 and enter another, smaller cistern. Daylight pours in. I climb a steep staircase and emerge at the summit, in the middle of the palace courtyard.

    The palace fortress once reached close to 100 feet high and was surrounded by double concentric walls accented by four cardinal point towers. Besides living quarters, the upper palace had a triclinium (a Greco-Roman-style formal dining room lined on three sides by a couch) and a bathhouse that features a domed, hewn-stone ceiling with an oculus (round opening). It's strange to find such a perfectly preserved structure amid the ancient ruins, and it leaves me with an eerie sense of standing both in the past and the present.

    Gazing out from the perimeter wall, I see Arab villages and Israeli settlements in three directions. But to the east cultivation abruptly stops as the desert exerts its authority, plummeting out of sight to the Dead Sea, then rising again as the mountains of Jordan. Why would Herod build such a prominent fortress—the largest palace complex in the Roman world—on the edge of a desert?

    Though the site had little apparent strategic value, it held profound meaning for Herod. Born around 73 B.C., he was the governor of Galilee when, in 40 B.C., the Parthian Empire conquered Judea (then under Roman control) and named a new king, Mattathias Antigonus. Herod, probably more shrewd than loyal, declared allegiance to Rome and fled Jerusalem with as many as 5,000 people—his family and a contingent of fighting men—under cover of night.

    Surging over rocky terrain, the wagon in which Herod's mother was riding overturned. Herod drew his sword and was on the verge of suicide when he saw she had survived. He returned to the battle and fought "not like one that was in distress. but like one that was excellently prepared for war," Josephus wrote. In tribute to his victory and his mother's survival, he vowed to be buried there.

    Herod sought refuge in Petra (in today's Jordan)—capital of the Nabateans, his mother's people—before heading to Rome. Three years later, with Rome's backing, Herod conquered Jerusalem and became king of Judea. A decade would pass before he would begin work on the remote fortified palace that would fulfill his pledge.

    Herod must have given a lot of thought to how Herodium would function, given the lack of a reliable water source and the mountain's distance from Jerusalem (in those days, a three- to four-hour trip by horseback). He arranged for spring water to be brought three and a half miles via an aqueduct, relocated the district capital to Herodium (with all the staff that such a move implied) and surrounded himself with 10 to 20 trustworthy families.

    "Herodium was built to solve the problem he himself created by making a commitment to be buried in the desert," says Netzer. "The solution was to build a large palace, a country club—a place of enjoyment and pleasure." The summit palace could be seen by Herod's subjects in Jerusalem, while the tallest of the four towers offered the king pleasant breezes and a gripping view of his domain.

    Ongoing excavations by Netzer reveal the impressive variety of facilities that Herod built at his desert retreat, including a royal theater that accommodated some 450 spectators. Netzer believes it was constructed to entertain Marcus Agrippa, Rome's second in command and a close friend of the Judean king, who visited Herodium in 15 B.C. Netzer unlocks a plywood door that has been installed on the site and invites me into the royal box, where Herod and his honored guests would have been seated. The walls were decorated with vivid secco landscape paintings (colors applied to dry, not wet, plaster). The colors, though subdued now, still feel vibrant, and we gaze at the image of an animal, maybe a gazelle, loping along.

    Around 10 B.C., according to Netzer, Herod oversaw the construction of his mausoleum. Upon its completion, he undertook the final stage of his self-commemoration by literally increasing the mountain's height: Herod's crew carted gravelly soil and rocks from the surrounding area to Herodium, pouring it all around the summit. Even with unlimited manpower, it must have been a Sisyphean enterprise to pile all that earth some 65 feet high and comb it over the original slopes like a child's carefully smoothed sand hill. "Like a pyramid," Netzer says, "the entire mountain was turned into a monument."

    The borders of Judea were quiet during Herod's reign, enabling him to undertake an ambitious building program that brought employment and prosperity to the region. The major projects he completed include the incomparable Temple in Jerusalem, a stunning winter palace in Jericho, two palaces atop Masada and the harbor at Caesarea. A palace garden in Jericho was elevated so that people strolling along the colonnades would see the foliage and flowers at eye level.

    Still, Herod's reign is remembered more for its ruthlessness and paranoia than its architectural feats. He tortured and killed family members, servants and bodyguards, to say nothing of his real enemies. In an Othello-like rage, Herod even ordered the execution of the woman he loved most—his second wife, Mariamne—believing that she had committed adultery. Herod's eldest son and heir apparent, Antipater, convinced the king that two of his other sons were plotting against him—so Herod had them executed. And when Herod learned that Antipater was planning to poison him, he rose from his bed just five days before he died to order the murder of Antipater. (As the Roman Emperor Augustus supposedly quipped: "It's better to be Herod's pig than his son.") In a final act of depravity, Herod imprisoned all the notables of Judea, ordering that they be executed on the day of his death so the country would be plunged into mourning. But when Herod died, in Jericho at about age 69—probably of kidney failure exacerbated by a genital infection, according to Aryeh Kasher's recent biography King Herod: A Persecuted Persecutor—the prisoners were released. Instead of mourning, rejoicing filled the land.

    Josephus wrote that Herod's body was conveyed to Herodium, "where, in accordance with the directions of the deceased, it was interred." The late king was "covered with purple and a diadem was put upon his head, and a crown of gold above it, and a scepter in his right hand."

    And so began a mystery that tantalized scholars for centuries.

    In the 1860s, Felicien de Saulcy, a French explorer, searched for Herod's tomb on the island in the center of the vast pool in Lower Herodium. Father Virgilio Corbo led an excavation at the summit from 1963 to 1967 on behalf of the Franciscan Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology in Rome. In 1983, a team led by Lambert Dolphin, a Silicon Valley geophysicist, used sonar and rock-penetrating radar to identify what Dolphin thought was a burial chamber inside the base of the highest tower on the mountaintop.

    Netzer, however, did not find Dolphin's data convincing enough to redirect his efforts from other, more promising sites—notably a monumental building in the lower complex. Moreover, Netzer and others argue that entombment in the tower would have been unthinkable, because Jewish law proscribed burial within a living space. Barbara Burrell, a classics professor at the University of Cincinnati, wrote in 1999 that interring Herod inside the palace "would have horrified both Romans and Jews, neither of whom dined with their dead."

    Netzer smiles as he recalls that when he investigated the cisterns and tunnels within Herodium in the early 1970s, he was actually standing less than ten feet from the tomb, which he later found halfway up the eastern slope. But Netzer instead continued to focus his attention on the foot of the mountain. "We kept getting hotter and hotter," says Ya'akov Kalman, one of Netzer's longtime associates, "but nothing came of it." Netzer believes that Herod originally intended to be buried in the lower complex, but for unknown reasons changed his mind and chose this other location. In 2005, having completed his work at Lower Herodium without revealing a burial chamber, Netzer turned once again to the mountain.

    In April 2007, his team discovered hundreds of red limestone fragments buried in the mountainside. Many bore delicate rosettes—a motif common to Jewish ossuaries and some sarcophagi of the era. Reassembling some of the pieces, Netzer concluded they were all that remained of a sarcophagus more than eight feet long with a gabled cover. The high quality of the craftsmanship suggested the sarcophagus was fit for a king. Plus, the extent of the fragmentation suggested that people had deliberately smashed it—a plausible outcome for the hated monarch's resting place. Based on coins and other items found nearby, Netzer surmises that the desecration occurred during the first Jewish revolt against the Romans, from A.D. 66 to 73. (As Kasher notes in his biography, "Herod the Great" was, for the Jews, an ironic title, designating an arrogant monarch who scorned the religious laws of his own people.)

    Within two weeks of finding the rosette fragments, workers unearthed the remains of two white limestone sarcophagi strewn about the tomb. Netzer believes one could have held Herod's fourth wife, Malthace, mother of his son Archelaus. The third sarcophagus might be that of Archelaus' second wife, who, based on the accounts of Josephus, was likely named Glaphyra. Workers also found a few bone fragments at the tomb site, though Netzer is skeptical that an analysis of the scant remains will yield any meaningful information about the identities of those buried at Herodium.

    Netzer acknowledges that absent further evidence, the rosette-decorated sarcophagus cannot be definitively assigned to Herod. Duane Roller, professor emeritus of Greek and Latin at Ohio State University and author of the 1998 book The Building Program of Herod the Great, concedes that the tomb belonged to someone of noble lineage, but is convinced that Herod's burial site is at the base of the summit tower. For one thing, Roller notes its similarity to other tombs built in Italy at that time. The lack of an inscription particularly troubles some scholars. David Jacobson, a researcher affiliated with University College London and the Palestine Exploration Fund, suggests that a sarcophagus of a very important personage would have been inscribed, and he points to that of Queen Helena of Adiabene, which was recovered from her royal mausoleum in Jerusalem. But others, including Netzer, point out that it was not common for Jews of that era to inscribe sarcophagi. Besides, it's plausible that Herodium itself was the inscription the entire edifice declares, "Behold me!"

    Clad in work shorts, hiking shoes and a well-worn leather Australian bush hat, Netzer scampers up the path to the tomb site. The septuagenarian offers me a hand as I seek a toehold. He greets the crew in Hebrew and Arabic as we pass from one section, where workers wield pickaxes, to another, where a young architect sketches decorative elements.

    The tomb site is nearly barren, but the podium that bore the royal sarcophagus hints at magnificence. It is set into the stony earth, partially exposed and unmarred, the joints between the smooth white ashlars (slabs of square stone) so fine as to suggest they were cut by a machine. Netzer has also found the corner pilasters (columns partially built into the walls), enabling him to estimate that the mausoleum, nestled against the side of the mountain, stood on a base 30 by 30 feet and was some 80 feet high—as tall as a seven-story building. It was built of a whitish limestone called meleke (Arabic for "royal") that was also used in Jerusalem and in the nearby Tomb of Absalom—named after the rebellious son of King David, but likely the tomb of the Judean King Alexander Jannaeus.

    The mausoleum's design is similar to the Tomb of Absalom, which dates to the first century B.C. and is notable for its conical roof, a motif also seen at Petra. The remnants of the mausoleum's facade are composed of the three elements of classical entablature: architraves (ornamental beams that sit atop columns), friezes (horizontal bands above the architraves) and cornices (crown molding found on the top of buildings). Netzer has also found pieces of five decorative urns. The urn was a funerary motif, used notably at Petra.

    Despite the work still to be done—excavating, assembling, publishing the data—Netzer is clearly gratified by what he has learned, which is, he says, the "secret" of Herodium: how Herod found a way to keep his vow and be buried in the desert. "In my field, ancient archaeology, you could say that once circumstances give me the opportunity to be quite certain, it's not in my character to have further doubts."

    Barbara Kreiger is the author of The Dead Sea and teaches creative writing at Dartmouth College.

    How Tomb Sweeping Day is Celebrated

    Tomb Sweeping Day is celebrated with families reuniting and traveling to their ancestors’ gravesites to pay their respects. First, weeds are removed from the gravesite and the tombstone is cleaned and swept. Any necessary repairs to the gravesite are also made. The new earth is added and willow branches are placed atop the gravesite.

    Next, joss sticks are placed by the grave. The sticks are then lit and an offering of food and paper money is placed at the tomb. Paper money is burned while family members show their respect by bowing to their ancestors. Fresh flowers are placed at the tomb and some families also plant willow trees. In ancient times, the five-colored paper was placed underneath a stone on the grave to signify that someone had visited the grave and that it had not been abandoned.

    As cremation is gaining popularity, families continue the tradition by making offerings at ancestral altars or by placing wreaths and flowers at martyrs’ shrines. Due to hectic work schedules and the long-distance, some families must travel, some families opt to mark the festival earlier or later in April over a long weekend or assign a few family members to make the trip on behalf of the entire family.

    Once the family has paid their respects at the gravesite, some families will have a picnic at the gravesite. Then, they take advantage of the usually good weather to take a walk in the countryside, known as 踏青 (Tàqīng), hence another name for the festival, Taqing Festival.

    Some people wear a willow twig on their heads to keep ghosts away. Another custom includes picking shepherd’s purse flower. Women also pick herbs and make dumplings with them and they also wear the shepherd’s purse flower in their hair.

    Other traditional activities on Tomb Sweeping Day include playing tug-of-war and swinging on swings. It is also a good time for sowing and other agricultural activities, including planting willow trees.