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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Technology Detects Name “Pontius Pilate” on Seal Ring

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK—According to a New York Times report, the name “Pilate” has been found inscribed on a simple ring that was made of copper alloy some 2,000 years ago and unearthed at the ancient fortress and palace of Herodium in the 1960s. Pieces of glass and pottery, arrowheads, and coins were also recovered from the room where the ring was discovered. Herodium Expedition researchers detected the inscription, written in Greek letters set around an image of a wine vessel, on the piece of jewelry using advanced photographic techniques. Pontius Pilate, credited in the Christian New Testament with presiding over a trial of Jesus Christ, was governor of the province of Judea from A.D. 26 to 36. Archaeologist Roi Porat of the Hebrew University and his colleagues said that although the name Pilate was not a common one at the time, they think it is unlikely that such a high-ranking official would have worn such a simple seal ring. For more on excavations at Herodium, go to “Autumn of the Master Builder.”

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