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Roman Military Camp and Civil Settlement of Tel Shalem

The project is centered around the site of Tel Shalem (arabic Tell er Radgha) in the middle Jordan valley, around 11 km south of the modern city of Bet She’an. Aside from an Early Bronze Age phase of settlement that is not regarded by the project, the site is characterized by a Hellenistic-Roman civil settlement with corresponding necropoles and two imperial military camps that overlap each other neighboring the settlement. Additionally, a late antique-byzantine necropole is located here, which uses spolia from Tel Shalem. The location of Tel Shalem can be considered to be strategically favorable, since the passing from the Jesreel-plain to the Jordan valley, the neighboring Decapolis-metropoles of Nysa-Skythopolis (modern Bet She’an, Israel) and Pella (modern Tabaqat, Jordan), as well as several far-reaching routes of the region can be controlled.
In earlier research, the site has gained prominence from numerous spectacular finds, such as a high-quality armor statue of Hadrian in bronze, a bronze portrait of Gordian III, as well as a monumental inscription for Hadrian. A previously found vexillatio inscription of Legio VI Ferrata, which was stationed in Legio (Meggido), further reveals the part-time presence of a division of the sixth legion in Tel Shalem. These unusual finds led to numerous speculations and a controversial debate about the role of the site in the Bar-Kochba-Revolt that mostly remained unsettled.
In cooperation with the Israel Museum, the Hebrew University, and the Macalester College, the systematic investigation of the site is planned. The primary goal is to examine the structure and duration of use of the military camp and civil settlement. Preparatory, the Archaeological Institute in Cologne already conducted large scale geophysical prospections in 2008 and 2013, where the extent and large parts of the inner structure of two overlapping camps could be shown. A testing season in 2017, that took place in the Principia of the younger camp, could reveal the aedes of the principia with a completely preserved mosaic floor and a donation inscription. According to the inscription, the younger camp was the base of the Ala VII Phrygum. It may be assumed due to the preliminary result that the older military camp was constructed by the vexillatio of the 6th legion and possibly destroyed in the Bar-Kochba-Revolt. In the same location, a second camp for the 7th Phrygian cavalry division, which lasted until the late empire, was built. The testing excavation shows a good state of preservation as well as potential of the site for further excavation seasons.



  • Israel Antiquities Authority
  • Hebrew University
  • Israel Museum
  • Macalester College

Short information:


  • M. Heinzelmann, M. Buess, Ein hadrianisches Militärlager bei Tel Shalem (Israel) - Ergebnisse einer geophysikalischen Prospektionskampagne, Kölner und Bonner Archaeologica 2, 2012, 175-180