A 2,000-year-old ring that was unearthed 50 years ago near Bethlehem may very likely have been worn by the man who was the Roman prefect of Judea in the years A.D. 26 to 37. Pilate served as fifth prefect for the Roman province of Judaea under the Roman emperor Tiberius during the probable lifetime of Jesus.
The ring, which is made from copper-alloy, bears the Greek inscription “of Pilatus” which experts believe refers to the infamous Pontius Pilate.
The intriguing artifact was one of many items found in Herod’s burial tomb, but only now have archaeologists interpreted the curious inscription.
Pontius Pilate is mentioned by name in several accounts in the New Testament as having ordered the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.
The ring was first found among hundreds of other artifacts in 1968–1969 excavations directed by archaeologist Gideon Foerster. He excavated a section of Herod’s burial tomb and palace at Herodium that had been used during the First Jewish Revolt, which occurred from 66–73 CE.
Recently, current archaeological director of the dig Roi Porat requested the engraved copper “sealing ring” be given a thorough cleaning in a laboratory, and a scholarly examination.
The ring, of a very simple design, is thought to have been used either by Pilate himself or another official under him who would use its seal on official correspondence. The scientific analysis of the ring was published in the biannual Israel Exploration Journal last week, in a story by the 104-year-old Israel Exploration Society.
The finding was also publicized on Thursday in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, under the headline “Ring of Roman Governor Pontius Pilate Who Crucified Jesus Found in Herodion Site in West Bank.”