A 2,000-year-old stamping ring that had been discovered in Israel 50 years ago, but only recently was deciphered, has been found to bear the name “Pilate,” raising theories as to whether or not it could have belonged to the biblical governor of Judea who handed Jesus over to be crucified to satisfy the angry mob.
The announcement was published in the Israel Exploration Journal, outlining that the copper ring, found during an 1960’s excavation in Herodion—about three miles from Bethlehem and seven miles from Jerusalem—dates between the first century B.C. to the mid-first century A.D.
The artifact was found on the grounds of what was the ancient palace and burial site of Herod, where a number of other items, such as pottery, glass and coins were uncovered. Archaeologist Gideon Foerster is credited with finding the ring, and epigrapher Leah DiSegni deciphered its inscription after its recent cleaning under the direction of Dr. Roi Porat of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
According to the Jerusalem Post, in addition to bearing the phrase “of Pilatus” in Greek, the stamping ring also features an image of a krater, or a vessel that was used to water down wine.
While researchers are being cautious and have not made any definitive statements, Porat opined that “in practice we have a ring inscribed with the name Pilate and the personal connection just cries out.”
While the name Pilate was not common during the time period and the krater “served as a meaningful Jewish symbol on sealing rings,” the authors of the Israel Exploration paper—-who include Hebrew University archaeologists Malka Hershkovitz, Yakov Kalman, Rachel Chachy, and the aforementioned Foerster and Porat—also note that the ring wasn’t very well made, and was possibly crafted “in a local workshop, perhaps located in Jerusalem.”
“Simple all-metal rings like the Herodium ring were primarily the property of soldiers, Herodian and Roman officials, and middle-income folk of all trades and occupations,” they also stated. “It is therefore unlikely that Pontius Pilatus, the powerful and rich prefect of Judea, would have worn a thin, all copper-alloy sealing ring.”