Josephus failure to provide a detailed geographical description of Gamala's location on the Golan made it difficult to locate. The identification was firmly established only in the course of archeological excavations during the 1970s.
The remains of the city are located on a rocky basalt ridge surrounded by deep gorges, with a shallow saddle separating it from the rest of the ridge, providing the city with outstanding defensive advantages. The top of the hill is narrow and pointed, creating a very steep slope in the north; the city was built on the more graduated southern slope.
The main approach road led to the eastern part of the city, where a massive fortification wall was constructed. This wall, built of squared basalt stones, is some 6 m. thick. Several square towers situated along the wall, and a circular tower at the crest of the hill, contributed to the citys defenses. In the low-lying southern part of the wall, two square towers guarded the narrow gateway into the city. In some sections of the wall, rooms of adjacent houses had been filled with stones in order to strengthen the wall. This led researchers to hypothesize that the wall had been hastily constructed, or strengthened, on the eve of the Roman siege.
A five meter-wide breach was found at the center of the eastern wall. Scattered around it were dozens of ballista stones and arrowheads; similar finds were also uncovered in destroyed buildings inside the wall all material evidence of the breaching of the wall and the battle between the Roman attackers and the Jewish defenders of the city.
"And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read."--Luke 4:16
Inside the city, near the wall, an impressive public building was uncovered and identified as the synagogue of Gamala. It is rectangular in shape (25.5 x 17 m.) and oriented northeast to southwest in the direction of Jerusalem. Along the walls are several rows of stone-built benches. Pillars around the center of the hall supported the roof. In the courtyard, wide steps led down to a mikve (Jewish ritual bath) which served those who came to pray in the synagogue.
These accommodations indicate that this city was capable of hosting members of both the Essene and Pharisaic sects of Judaism. This is nothing like what you would have found in Nazareth which was nothing more than a nameless small burial site with a couple of shacks.
The houses of Gamala were built on terraces with stepped alleys between them. Well-constructed residences with large rooms, obviously of the wealthy, were uncovered in the west of the city. The large number of oil presses suggests that olives and the production of oil were the basis of the city's economy.
Continued / Table of Contents