Finding the Ironsides

Evidence of the Roman legion military camp found in Israel

**The article below reported the 2013 archaeological fieldwork at Roman Legio during the excavation season. In a web-exclusive report on Bible History Daily, Legio excavation directors Matthew J. Adams, Jonathan David and Yotam Tepper describe the first archaeological investigation of a second-century C.E. Roman camp in the Eastern Roman Empire.**


Archaeologists in the Jezreel Valley excavate a pipe that may have belonged to the Sixth Roman Legion camp. Though known from historical sources, the exact location of the camp has remained a mystery. Photo courtesy Jezreel Valley Regional Project.

For the first time, the camp of the Sixth Roman Legion may have been located. Analyzing an enhanced high-resolution satellite photo, archaeologist Yotam Tepper of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in collaboration with the Jezreel Valley Regional Project, identified what he believes to be the camp’s square-shaped boundary. The team conducted ground-penetrating radar and electromagnetic testing and subsequently carried out excavations at the site. They uncovered the base of a battery or wall, a moat surrounding the camp, water pipes, a covered sewage channel, coins, tiles and a shingle decorated with the legion’s symbol. These discoveries seem to support Tepper’s identification of the site as the camp of the Sixth Legion. The site sits between Tel Megiddo (Biblical Armageddon) and the oldest known Christian house of worship, located half a mile south of the camp, which was abandoned by the end of the third century.

According to historical sources, the Legio Sexta Ferrata, known as the “Ironsides,” was based in the Galilee in the second century A.D. The Sixth Legion was most likely stationed there in response to the Jewish antagonism that eventually resulted in the Second Jewish Revolt of 132–136 A.D. From their headquarters, 3,500 Roman soldiers ruled over Galilee and part of Samaria. The city that grew around the camp became known as Legio during the Roman Empire and later as Lajjun after the arrival of Muslim forces in the seventh century. The actual camp site of the Sixth Legion, however, remained unknown. According to Matthew Adams, director of the Jezreel Valley Regional Project, “If [Tepper’s] right and we locate the camp archaeologically, it will be the first time in the archaeology of the Roman Empire that a Roman camp of this period has been excavated in the Eastern half of the Empire!”

Read more about the excavation in the Jezreel Valley.

Read the directors’ excavation report on Bible History Daily for free.


BAS Library Members: Read more about the early church found near Megiddo, as well as the Roman forces sent to suppress the Second Jewish Revolt:

Vassilios Tzaferis, “Inscribed ‘To God Jesus Christ’: Early Christian Prayer Hall Found in Megiddo Prison,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2007.

Werner Eck, “Hadrian’s Hard-Won Victory,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2007.

Hanan Eshel and Ro’i Porat, “Fleeing the Romans,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2006.

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5 Responses

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  • JAllan says

    Several years ago, over a period of years, there were full page ads in BAR, and the no longer published BR, for a book which expressed the author’s opinion that the remains of the Temple platform and the fortress Antonia had been interchanged by the archeological “establishment.” Has any additional evidence been unearthed to settle this question one way or another? Has this author been totally discredited and therefore ceased advertising? Or have parts of his ideas been vindicated? Specifically, ARE there signs of a long standing military camp on the Temple mount? Is it even politically possible to look for any? Are there signs of a smaller-than-expected Temple complex on the site believed to be the Antonia? What effect would such evidence have on the current situation between Israelis and Palestinians?

  • Nathaniel says

    I respect but must contend Joe Yudin’s “local” knowledge offered from Kibbutz Megiddo. Megiddo IS in the the Jezreel Valley, but the Jezreel Valley was NOT an entity onto itself. It WAS considered part of ancient Galilee in the era discussed. It is my understanding that many of the wealthy and royal farming estates of Galilee farmed the Jezreel in the period being discussed. The only alternative is to say Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley were part of Samaria, which is obviously not true. More importantly, I am interested to know if the location of the Roman Sixth Legion’s camp at Legio can be correlated with Josephus’ reports of the Roman movements prior to the infamous bloody “sea battle” on of the Sea of Galilee to properly locate Tarichaea near ancient Beth Yerah. Albright’s lame theory of Tarichaea at Magdala must be totally refuted along the lines of the research done by Dr. Nikos Kokkinos so that some revealing archaeology can get focused on the lands near the south end of the Sea of Galilee. Finds there could be very important, revealing, and worthy of a BAR cover! . . . not to mention the mysterous submarine megastructure in that part of the lake.

  • Joseph says

    Megiddo is NOT in the Galilee. It’s in the Jezreel Valley.

    Joe Yudin
    Kibbutz Megiddo

  • JAllan says

    I believe the article was referring to a Roman military camp, not a house of worship. As far as real archeologists know, there was no proof that Mary Magdalene or anyone who knew Jesus personally was ever in Provence (almost every medieval town had a legend about some saint having visited there; it was a good way to Christianize the local pagan festivals).

  • Peter says

    The oldest known house of worship was the cave used by Mary Magdalene in Provence, the second oldest is “The Tomb of David” investigated by Bargil Pixner, published in BAR, so this is the third oldest. If you don’t count Peter’s house.

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