Archaeologists in Israel have made an important discovery of architectural remains from a large Roman military camp dating back around 1,800 years. The remains were uncovered during a recent excavation at the foot of Tel Megiddo, near the ancient village of Kfar Othnay.

The excavation was directed by Dr. Yotam Tepper and Barak Tzin from the Israel Antiquities Authority. It was part of an infrastructure project to widen and improve Route 66 between the Megiddo Junction and Hatishbi Junction in Yoqn’eam.

During the excavation, extensive and impressive remains of the Via Praetoria (the camp’s main road) were discovered, along with a semi-circular podium and paved stone areas that were part of a large public monumental building.

The remains are from the base of the Roman Sixth Legion “Ferrata”, which was the only permanent military camp of its size discovered and excavated in Israel. The camp served as the home of over 5,000 Roman soldiers for more than 180 years, from around 117-120 AD until about 300 AD.

Two main roads crossed in the center of the 550-meter long and 350-meter wide camp, and its headquarters were located here. All distances along the Roman imperial highways to major cities in northern Israel were measured and marked with milestones from this base point.

Dr. Tepper noted that the discovery of the legionary base was no accident, as survey work and six seasons of archaeological excavations had been conducted over the last decade as part of an academic geography and archaeology joint project.

Several structures from the camp headquarters (principia) had already been uncovered southwest of Route 66, and the current excavation – carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority – has begun uncovering the northeast section along Route 66.

Preliminary studies using ground-penetrating radar indicated the entire Roman camp and all its components lie beneath the wheat fields of the Megiddo kibbutz. The unique contribution of this research project is the rarity of such archaeological findings, according to Dr. Tepper.

While other Roman camps in Israel are known, they were temporary siege camps or small outposts of auxiliary divisions – none can compare to the fully intact legionary base discovered here.

Coins, weapon parts, ceramic vessels and glass fragments were found, but the predominant discoveries were the large quantities of roof tiles, some bearing the stamp of the Legio VI Ferrata. These tiles served varied purposes such as roofing buildings, paving floors and wall facing.

The technology, skills, construction techniques and weapons reflect specific military imprints of the Roman Empire. Due to its proximity to archaeological sites like Megiddo National Park and an early Christian prayer hall, officials are exploring ways to enhance tourism in the historically rich area.

Further excavations will help conserve the well-preserved archaeological remains from this landmark Roman military installation.


Sources

Israel Antiquities Authority


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