Israeli researchers said they had found new evidence to indicate that the ancient copper alloy finger ring could have belonged to Pontius Pilate, the man who judged Jesus before his crucifixion. Specifically, the Gospel of Matthew says Pilate was the Roman prefect who ruled the Roman province of Judea from 26 AD to 36 AD and washed his hands before sentencing Jesus to death.
It was important to publish a careful scientific article.” He added, “But in practice, we have a ring inscribed with the name Pilate and the personal connection just cries out. ~Roi Porat, archaeologist and Excavation Director at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem
The ring, believed to be 2,000 years old, was found in 1968-69 during the excavations that were led by archaeologist Gideon Foerster. The artifact was discovered at a section of the burial tomb and palace of Herod at Herodium that was used during the First Jewish Revolt. Recently, a team of researchers cleaned the ancient ring for further assessment.
An engraved krater or wine vessel was found in the middle of the ring, and is surrounded by small and slightly deformed Greek letters that spell out “of Pilatus”. However, some researchers said the design in the center of the ring does not indicate that it is noble or elite. They added that the design is too simple for a rich and powerful Roman. As for the symbol of the vessel, they said it is common in Jewish sealing rings.
While all the explanations published about the ring are possible, one thing stands out for Roi Porat, archaeologist and Excavation Director at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “It was important to publish a careful scientific article.” He added, “But in practice, we have a ring inscribed with the name Pilate and the personal connection just cries out.”
According to the researchers, it is unlikely that the artifact belonged to Pontius Pilate. However, it could possibly have been worn by a member of his administration or someone else. “Since the inscription on the ring reads ‘of Pilatus’, the first association that comes to mind is Pontius Pilatus, the prefect of the Roman province of Judaea 26–36 CE, under Emperor Tiberius Caesar.”
They also said, “Since the name Pilatus is rare, it is not inconceivable that this ring belonged to Pontius Pilatus himself. However, we think it implausible that a prefect would have used a simple, all-metal, copper-alloy personal sealing ring with a motif that was already a well-known Jewish motif in Judaea before and during his rule.”
The only other artifact that bears the name of Pilate is a stone that archaeologists found in 1961 at Caesarea Maritima. Known as The Pilate Stone, it is a huge stone block that has four lines of text engraved on it. It says, “[Po]ntius Pilate … [Pref]ect of Juda[ea].” It is now part of the collection of the Israel Museum.