The “Ring of Pontius Pilate” raised doubts among historians: it could have belonged to another official

The “Ring of Pontius Pilate” raised doubts among historians: it could have belonged to another official


Jewelry too simple for a Roman prefect

A 2,000-year-old ring discovered 50 years ago near Jerusalem may have belonged to the Roman prefect of Judea in 26-37 AD, Pontius Pilate. But there is still debate whether this ring actually belongs to Pilate.

A ring inscribed with “Pilato” (ΠΙΛΑΤΟ) in Greek letters was discovered in 1968–1969 during excavations at Herodium, an ancient palace and fortress in Israel. Pilate served as the fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judea under the Roman Emperor Tiberius during Jesus’ probable life.

The ring is made of copper alloy and has the image of a large vessel – a crater, used to store wine. The inscription is located around.

The intriguing artifact was one of many items found in Herod’s tomb, but only recently have archaeologists attempted to decipher the curious inscription.

The discovery of this ring caused controversy among historians and archaeologists as it was seen as the first physical artifact that could be tied by Pontius Pilate. However, the interpretation of this inscription has caused debate.

Some scholars believe that the ring is indeed an authentic artifact that belonged to Pontius Pilate himself. They argue that the inscription is a clear reference to the name of the prefect, and the simple copper alloy design matches the rings typically worn by Roman officials of his rank.

Other experts have expressed doubts about the authenticity of the ring. They note that the inscription can also be interpreted as two separate words, “PI” and “LATO”, which could refer to other persons or concepts unrelated to Pontius Pilate. They also claim that the ring’s design and craftsmanship do not match those of Roman prefects.

A new study published in the journal Atikot has once again cast doubt on the authenticity of the ring. The analysis looked at the inscription and the composition of the ring and concluded that the inscription could be read in a variety of ways, suggesting that it relates to a quarry or stonemason profession.

“The carved inscription and central motif indicate that the ring was used to stamp bullae (clay seals) with official insignia, although the Romans generally preferred to use wax rather than clay for them,” explains scholar Thielman in The Federalist.

Analysis of the ring shows that it was made by a blacksmith from Jerusalem. According to Tilman, its modest design and lack of jewels suggest that it was originally used by someone under a name similar to that of a Roman governor, or by a low-level official acting on behalf of Pilate, rather than by the prefect himself.

Others believe that it would be very unusual for a high-ranking Roman prefect to use Greek for an administrative inscription.

“Regardless of one’s understanding of Pilate’s ring, the historical evidence for a Roman prefect named Pontius Pilate is significant,” comments Nathan Steinmeier. “After all, the evidence for Pilate’s existence is stronger than that of most first-century provincial governors, even without Pilate’s ring.”


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