Israeli archaeologists have found ruins they believe are the site of one of the two Roman legions based in the country between 120 and 300 C.E.
Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Yotam Tepper had long suspected that the site in the Galilee was the base of the Legio Sexta Ferrata, the 6th Roman Legion, also known as the Ironclad Legion. The other legion in the country was the 10th, based in Jerusalem.
Over the past week, an expedition led by Tepper and archaeologist Matthew Adams found the base of a battery or wall, a moat surrounding the camp, water pipes, a covered sewage channel, coins and tiles. The legion's symbol adorned a broken shingle.
The site sits between two other historical gems: Tel Megiddo, the ancient fortified city that has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the oldest known Christian house of worship, which was discovered around seven and a half years ago about a kilometer south.
Finding the base took some effort:
Excavations and surveys over the years found the locations of the Jewish village Othnai in the Megiddo Prison compound, and the Roman-Byzantine city of Maximianopolis near Kibbutz Megiddo. To find the legion camp, Tepper conducted field surveys and relied on surveys from the past.
“I even went to the homes of local people, who poured me out old coins from old tin cans," he says. "In people's gardens, we found archaeological artifacts bearing various inscriptions.”
Slowly he put together the puzzle: aqueducts, burial grounds and the ruins of a civilian settlement at the edge of the camp. There were also remnants of ancient roads and a milestone marking the two-mile mark from the camp. All this helped Tepper conclude that the legion's camp lay under a hill.
Satellite photography and ground-radar scanning were involved as well.