In Depth

Ancient ring found in Bethlehem belonged to man who crucified Jesus

Identity of the ring's owner had not been known for 50 years

An ancient ring found in Bethlehem belonged to the man who crucified Jesus, scientists believe.

The bronze ring was discovered 50 years ago “during a dig at Herodion near the West Bank’s Bethlehem by Professor Gideon Forster from the Hebrew University”, reports The Independent.

But five decades later, the identity of the owner appears to have been established: the Roman governor of Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate – the man who ordered that Jesus be crucified and then ran the subsequent trial.

The name was worked out after a thorough cleansing, when it was also photographed with the use of a special camera at the Israel Antiquities Authority labs, according to Israeli news site Haaretz. After extensive study the inscription on what was apparently a stamping ring included a picture of a wine vessel surrounded by Greek writing translated as saying “Pilatus”.

Pilate was the fifth of Roman leaders in Judah, and “apparently the most important of them”, adds the website. He ruled in the years 26 to 36, and some say even from the year 19. The name was rare in the Israel of that era, according to Professor Danny Schwartz.

“I don’t know of any other Pilatus from the period and the ring shows he was a person of stature and wealth,” Schwartz said.

A stamping ring of this type “is also a hallmark to the status of the cavalry in Roman times, to which Pilate belonged”, says Haaretz. The ring is quite simple therefore researchers believe it was used by the governor in day to day work.

The findings were handed over to the current team that works at the site, led by Dr Roee Porath, also from Hebrew University.

He said: “You can see he had a natural link to the Herodion. Even for Herod it was more than just a tomb site with a palace. It was also a significant site of government. You can see the unusual significance this site had.”

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