Dozens of ancient floor tiles bearing the seal impressions of the 10th Roman Legion were seized by the Jerusalem Police last Tuesday night. The tiles were probably used as part of the floor of a public building, possibly a bathhouse.
Jerusalem Police detectives who were operating in the Beit Hanina neighborhood discovered several covered cardboard boxes in the trunk of a vehicle, which aroused their suspicion. Upon inspection of the contents, it became clear that these were archaeological findings. The police arrested the owner of the vehicle and called the supervisors of the Robbery Prevention Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
When IAA inspectors arrived at the police station, they were amazed to discover that the suspect had in his vehicle dozens of ancient bricks that are approximately 2000 years old, from the Roman era, with seals and imprints of the 10th Legion on them. Evidence found on the bricks suggested they had been recently uprooted from an antiquities site in the area.
According to Amir Ganor, Director of the IAA Robbery Prevention Unit, the bricks were likely used as part of the floor of a public building, or an oven that stood in a bathhouse and was used by the soldiers of the Roman legion.
The 10th Roman Legion (Legio X Fretensis) arrived in Eretz Israel in the year 6 BCE and helped established Roman control of Judea. Between the years 66-70 CE, the 10th Legion fought against Jewish rebels in Galilee, the Judean desert, and the Jerusalem area, until the destruction of the city and the Temple.
Later, the 10th Legion soldiers defeated the last rebels in Masada, after a long siege. After the capitulation of the rebellion, the soldiers settled in the greater Jerusalem area, and established shops to produce the 10th legion’s unique, with the stamped insignia, LXF. The bricks became the main identifier of the locations of the legion’s units throughout the country. The bulk of the bricks was discovered in the Jerusalem area, mostly in Aelia Capitolina, the Roman colony that was established by Emperor Hadrian on the ruins of Jerusalem.
Later, the 10th Legion participated in the suppression of the Bar Kochba rebellion between the years 132-135, and suffered heavy losses.
The 10th Legion remained in Judea until the end of the 3rd century, leaving behind public buildings and military camps.
“It hurts me to see that to satisfy their greed, some people would deface the floor of a 2000-year-old public building and uproot a piece of history,” says Ganor.
The suspect was detained and interrogated, and the IAA is examining his version, according to which the bricks came from the Hebron area.