Archaeologists Discover Pontius Pilate Reference on Ancient Ring

New analysis has revealed an unusual inscription on a copper-alloy finger ring uncovered at Herodium 50 years ago. Documented by a team of archaeologists in Israel Exploration Journal, the ring briefly caught the media’s attention last month.

Based on the surrounding material, the ring was presumably deposited towards the latter half of the first century, probably about the period of the first Jewish revolt against Rome in AD 66-71. The broken hoop has a diameter of two-thirds of an inch, while the oval bezel measures one-half inch by one-third inch. The bezel relief features a krater (mixing vessel) as the motif, flanked by inscribed letters “PI” on the left and “LATO” on the right.

As this constitutes an unusual historical name in the Levant, it thus has been attributed to Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea from AD 26-36 who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth outside Jerusalem, probably in AD 33. . .

The ancient historian Josephus reports Herod’s burial there in War 1.673, and his tomb has also been reported there from excavations by Ehud Netzer. Before his death in 2010, Netzer published an extensive guide of the site. Based on excavation evidence, the area was substantially abandoned after Herod’s reign, except for brief intervals until the Jewish Revolt, and subsequently destroyed by the Romans in AD 71.

The incised inscription and central motif indicate the ring functioned for stamping bulla (clay seals) with an official insignia, although Romans typically preferred affixing wax rather than clay. Analysis of the ring indicates its manufacture was likely by a smith in Jerusalem. Its common ornamentation and lack of precious gem suggests its original use by someone a name similar to the Roman governor’s, or as a low-level official acting on Pilate’s behalf, rather than the prefect himself. (Read more from “Archaeologists Discover Pontius Pilate Reference on Ancient Ring” HERE)

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