Archaeologists believe they have discovered the ring of Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect who ordered the Crucifixion of Jesus.
With the help of a special camera from the Israel Antiquities Authority, a team of archaeologists lead by Professor Danny Schwartz from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem discovered a ring that bears the Greek inscription of Pilatus. The letters are inscribed around an engraving of a krater, a wine vessel common to the era.
“We have a ring inscribed with the name Pilate and the personal connection just cries out.”
The ring was excavated fifty years ago at the Herodion excavation site just three miles south east of Bethlehem. In antiquity Herodion was a palace fortress built on a large conical hill, taking its namesake after King Herod who used it as his winter residence. The significance of the bronze ring was not discovered until it was put through an intense restoration process and analyzed with specialist photography.
As Pilatus is such a rare name and no evidence currently suggests any other figure of the same, researchers are confident it belonged to the prefect himself as this specific type of ring is a “hallmark” of the Roman cavalry to which he belonged to.
“I don’t know of any other Pilatus from the period and the ring shows he was a person of stature and wealth. Because of the rarity of the name Pilatus, which appears in full, and because only one Pontius Pilatus was ever the Roman governor of Judea, this identification should be regarded as completely certain.”
The ring is a sealing ring, used to seal letters and official documents with molten wax. It is believed the ring was used by the prefect in his day to day work, or also used by his officials to sign documents in his name. It was discovered in a room filled with shards of glass and pottery, arrowheads, coins, and various other items.
If authentic, the ring would be the just the second discovery of physical evidence to the historicity of Pontius Pilate. The first is the Pilate Stone, a dedicatory inscription bearing both the name and title of the Roman governor found on a temple to Emperor Tiberius.
“A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.” – C.S. Lewis
Given that the ring is of bronze rather than precious metal, perhaps it is one of many giveaways or souvenirs for guests or employees, rather than a possession of Pilate himself.
It would still be evidence of his existence.