Archaeologists Believe They've Found Where The Dance That Killed John The Baptist Happened

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockJan 6 2021, 11:08 UTC

The hilltop fortress of Machaerus. Damira /

Archaeologists claim to have uncovered a famous dancefloor, the supposed location of one of the whackier tales of death in the Bible.


John the Baptist is a major player in all of the new testament gospels, given his role of (spoilers) baptizing Jesus. For those who aren't religious or curious enough to seek out what happened after his cameo, you may be surprised to learn that he crops up again throughout the new testament, including in a bizarre story about his death.

According to the gospels of Mark and Matthew, a daughter of Herodias was at the birthday celebration of her stepfather King Herod (yes, the one who ordered a killing spree in Bethlehem in a scattershot attempt to kill baby Jesus, it probably didn't come up at the party) where she performed a dance for the king.

"When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests," Mark 6:21-29 states. "The king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it." And he solemnly swore to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.""

It must have been one hell of a dance, you don't just give up half your kingdom for a Macarena, we're talking at least the Worm or higher here.


Naturally, being notable enough to write down in a religious text, she didn't ask for whatever the 1st Century equivalent of a Tamagotchi was, which is probably a regular pet now that I think about it.

Stuck for ideas for gifts, as you normally are around birthdays, she went to her mother and asked what she should ask for.

“The head of John the Baptizer," her mother replied, killing the mood of an otherwise quite fun birthday party. She returned to the King and demanded


“I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

Mark writes that "The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head."

The solider went off and did the deed, and brought the head on a platter, which incidentally is possibly where we get the expression to be handed something "on a silver platter".


The disciples, when they heard about the bizarre dance murder, then took the body and laid it to rest in a tomb, according to Mark.

It all sounds rather Game of Thrones, but archaeologist Győző Vörös, author of the book Holy Land Archaeology on Either Side: Archaeological Essays in Honour of Eugenio Alliata claims in the book to have found the dance floor mentioned in this tale. 

Vörös, director of Machaerus Excavations and Surveys at the Dead Sea, reconstructed a courtyard around Herod's throne and believes a niche was part of the king's throne. This indicates that the courtyard could in fact be highly significant, and likely the dance floor mentioned in the Bible, according to Live Science


Though this would be an awesome find, the final report has not yet been released, and other archaeologists are not as convinced. Jodi Magness, professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, praised the excavation work but told Live Science that the niche was similar to other niches at the Fortress of Machaerus, which have not been identified as thrones.

Nevertheless, others are excited to see the final reports.