Big enough to drive an army through, this breach and two others in the eastern wall mark the first clash of the opposing forces at Gamla. According to Josephus’ account, the Romans opened the breaches with their battering rams. The Romans then “poured in through the breaches with a great blare of trumpets and din of weapons, and, shouting themselves hoarse, flung themselves upon the defenders.” After an initial retreat up the hill, the Jewish defenders mounted a furious counterattack that routed the Romans.

Spherical basalt stones provided the ammunition for Roman ballistae, a type of catapult. The ballista stones shown here were found in a heap inside the city wall. Gamla’s defenders probably collected them during the night in order to throw them back at the Romans the next day. The variety of arrowhead types found inside and outside the wall reflect the Romans use of various nationals as archers within their army, due to the Romans’ own lack of skill in archery. The site has also yielded the tips of catapult bolts (the larger points in the photo), which were fired from a kind of large mechanical bow. The 1,000 ballista stones and 1,600 arrowheads found at Gamla, far more than at any other site in ancient Israel, testify to the size and fierceness of the battle at Gamla.

Other martial objects recovered from Gamla include a lance tip with a hook, left, found on top of the breach, where it may have been used to aid in climbing the wall; a silver-plated bronze cheek-guard from a Roman helmet, lower right; and a tip of a sword sheath, upper right. The latter, made of gold-plated bronze and decorated with incised abstract designs, probably belonged to a high-ranking Roman officer.