Masada has caught my attention in the past few days. Those who have visited the site are aware of the Byzantine ruins, including a church, on the top of the plateau. A brochure published by the The Israel Nature and Parks Authority points out that Masada “sank into oblivion until the nineteenth century.”
The first scholars to identify Masada with the plateau known in Arabic as es-Sebbeh were Smith and Robinson in 1838, and the first to climb it were Wolcott and Tipping in 1842. Warren climbed Masada in 1867, Conder described and mapped it in 1875, Sandel discovered the water system in 1905, and Schulten studied mainly the Roman siege system in 1932.
Perhaps most visitors today associate the excavation of Masada with the late Yigael Yadin from 1963 to 1965. Masada National Park opened in 1966, and the first cable car to take visitors to the top was in 1971. The larger cable cars, holding about 40 passengers each, were added several years later.
My first visit to Masada was in 1969. At that time it was necessary to walk up the path on the siege ramp made by the Romans. In A.D. 73 or 74, “the Roman Tenth Legion Fretensis, led by Flavius Silva, laid siege to the mountain.” The ramp was built so the Romans could move their battering ram up to the western gate of Masada. The photo below was made from the plateau. The ramp is visible just below the bottom half of the photo, and the path is on the ridge. The path leading to our right (view from the top) goes to the large water cisterns.