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Nineteen ostraca - potsherds with inscriptions on them - from King Herod's desert fortress of Machaerus have been rediscovered among the excavation notes and artifacts of E. Jerry Vardaman, the man who led the first excavations there in 1968. These had lain in storage since his retirement in 1993, and had only recently been found by scholars seeking to publish his findings posthumously. Christopher A. Rollston, a professor and epigrapher from George Washington University, was invited by the family to take possession of the ostraca with the goal of photographing and translating them. Rollston stated, "Anytime you have inscriptions from a really important biblical site, they will provide information that is important to understanding the New Testament, the New Testament world, and the world of Second Temple Judaism," Josephus records that John the Baptist was beheaded (Matt. 14:1-12) by Herod Antipas at Machaerus, his palace which is located in modern-day Jordan.

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