Name of Pilate Discovered on Ring Found at Herodium

A copper alloy ring bearing the inscription “of Pilatus” may have belonged to Pontius Pilate. The ring was discovered in excavations of the Herodium in 1968–69, and a new study of it was requested by the current excavation director Roi Porat. The results of the investigation were published in the Israel Exploration Journal, and popular articles have been written in Haaretz (premium) and The Times of Israel. The latter article concludes:

As to whose ring it actually was, the authors offer a few suggestions, including other Early Roman period men called “Pilatus.” Likewise, the name may have referred to those under the historical Pilate’s command, a member of his family “or some of his freed slaves,” they write. “It is conceivable,” write the authors, “that this finger ring from a Jewish royal site might have belonged to a local individual, either a Jew, a Roman, or another pagan patron with the name Pilatus.” It did not, they conclude, belong to the Roman prefect himself. Porat offers another possibility, however. What if, maybe, Pilate had a gold ring for ceremonial duties and a simple copper ring for everyday wear? “There is no way of proving either theory 100% and everyone can have his own opinion,” said Porat. Regardless, “it’s a nice story and interesting to wrap your head around.”

The Israel Exploration Journal article is not online (as far as I can tell), but its abstract reads:

A simple copper-alloy ring dated to the first century BCE–mid-first century CE was discovered in the hilltop palace at Herodium. It depicts a krater circled by a Greek inscription, reading: ‘of Pilatus’. The article deals with the typology of ancient representations of kraters in Second Temple Jewish art and with the possibility that this ring might have belonged to Pontius Pilatus, the prefect of the Roman province of Judaea or to a person in his administration, either a Jew or a pagan.

HT: Alexander Schick

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Weekend Roundup

A high school student found a ballista ball from the Bar Kochba Revolt during recent excavations of Beitar.

Excavators working at Abel Beth Maacah discovered one of the earliest silver hoards ever found.

There’s more information about the excavation of the chariot race mosaic in Cyprus.

To make the looting of Syrian artifacts more difficult, the US State Department announced emergency import restrictions.

“Oxford University researchers say that trees which grew during intense radiation bursts in the past have ‘time-markers’ in their tree-rings that could help archaeologists date events from thousands of years ago.”

Wayne Stiles explains how the Herodium testifies to God’s sovereignty.


The New York Times is no fan of the Ben-Hur remake.

The Associates for Biblical Research are beginning to recruit for their first season of excavations at Shiloh next summer.

Leon Mauldin posts on the end of wicked Queen Athaliah and shares a photo of a model of Jerusalem at the Bible Lands Museum.

If you wanted to know a little more about Enoch’s journey through the world (referenced in
Thursday’s survey results), Paleojudaica explains.

The new NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible is being released on Tuesday. It looks impressive, and you can flip through the entire books of Genesis and Matthew online to see for yourself.

Hundreds of photos, maps, and charts accompany study notes edited by John Walton (OT) and Craig
Keener (NT). The promotional website also includes videos and infographics.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Joseph Lauer

Old City aerial at night from southwest, ws052016101
Our most re-tweeted photo of the week was this aerial photo taken by Bill Schlegel of Jerusalem from the southwest. The Citadel of David is in the foreground and the Mount of Olives is in the distance.
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Archaeologists working at Laodicea have uncovered an inscription with the “water law” of the city from AD 114.

The mummy of King Tut will remain on display in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

A girl shattered a Roman vase in a display case at the Israel Museum. Or did she?

The Pope’s visit has inspired a new exhibit at the Penn Museum: “Sacred Writings: Extraordinary Texts of the Biblical World.”

Popular Archaeology runs a story on the latest discoveries on the Mount Zion dig.

Carl Rasmussen posts photos of two wall paintings from the Herodium now on display at the Israel Museum.

“The first Protecting the Past conference will be held in Amman (Jordan) between 28-30 September 2015 at The Jordan Museum.”

LiveScience has the latest on the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.”

The Biblical Archaeology Society’s Blowout Sale ends on Monday. Many items are marked down 50% or more.

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible has dropped in price to $26.18.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Paleojudaica

We’ve been posting a photo each day this year on Facebook and Twitter. Our most popular photo this week was this image of the City of David from the 1890s.

Jerusalem City of David and Mt of Olives, pcm02712
The City of David, Temple Mount, and the Mount of Olives
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Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Archaeologists have discovered a Byzantine church near Abu Gosh during construction to widen Highway 1. UPI has five photos of the excavation. High-res photos may be downloaded here.


Haaretz has posted a 1-minute video in Hebrew with English subtitles.

The season at Khirbet el-Maqatir (Ai?) is underway with Bryant Wood giving a report from the first week and Suzanne Lattimer giving a report from the second week.

A summary of the first week of excavations at Tel Burna includes many photos.

If you’re interested in knowing more what’s involved in an archaeological excavation, you can check out this year’s manual for the Tell es-Safi/Gath excavation.

Israel has approved a scaled-down version of a visitor’s center in the City of David. Both sides claimed victory.

An Israeli judge ruled that Joe Zias overstepped the bounds of proper academic criticism and awarded a judgment of $200,000 to Simcha Jacobovici. Jacobovici had been seeking $3 million.

The Herodium and Herod’s palace at Jericho provide some striking geographic ironies of Jesus and Herod the Great.

PEF posts a photo with Starkey, Petrie, and Tufnell.

Ferrell Jenkins reports on recent changes made at the site of Capernaum.

Leon Mauldin explains and illustrates the significance of Nahal Besor.

Carl Rasmussen has long wanted a tour of the excavations under the Kishle and yesterday his wish was fulfilled.


The New York Times reports on how tourism in Jordan is suffering due to the conflict in Syria. That is too bad; Jordan is safe and has many important biblical sites.

Here are five reasons you shouldn’t buy that ancient artifact.

This week on the Book and the Spade Gary Burge discusses his new book, A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer

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Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Israeli authorities have arrested 7 Bedouin for illegally excavating at Tel Ma’aravim.

Take a tour of all the discoveries in Ashkelon with Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am’s well-illustrated article in The Times of Israel.

If you haven’t already purchased Wayne Stiles’s Going Places with God, it’s now only $1.99 on Kindle (for a limited time).

The most detailed article on the Dome of the Rock carpet replacement job is at Israel HaYom.

Exploring Bible Lands shares photos with unique perspectives of the basilica in Nazareth and the spring of Harod.

Gary Manning discusses recent claims of the Talpiot Tomb on the Book and the Spade.

Learn why Jeff Blakely carries a roll of brand new US pennies in his dig bag.

I’ve never had a better perspective of Herodium than from this drone video (2.5 min).

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The Passover sacrifice was reenacted recently by Jewish priests-in-training. The Times of Israel article includes a graphic 3-minute video.

Wayne Stiles explains how God connected Passover, redemption, and the Holy Land. He also shows how archaeology helps us to understand the Passion Week.

BibleX shares how one can illustrate the triumphal entry using photos from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project found a finger from an Egyptian statue last week.

Leen Ritmeyer was recently interviewed on “Cry for Zion.” His blog lists some of the questions he was asked.

The Gazelle Valley Urban Wildlife Park opened in Jerusalem last week.

A.D. The Bible Continues airs Sunday evening on NBC. A trailer is online.

David Laskin visits sites related to King Herod in a travel piece in the New York Times.

Archaeologists have discovered an ancient Egyptian brewery in Tel Aviv.

Passages opened yesterday in Santa Clarita, California.

The Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy, has re-opened after a five-year restoration. This is the only museum entirely devoted to Egyptian culture outside of Egypt.

A new technology will reduce the length of time required for carbon-14 dating from six weeks to two days.

Accordance’s 20% off sale ends on Monday (with code Celeb2). That discount applies to our own photo collections, including The American Colony Collection ($30 off), Views That Have Vanished, and the new ones: Cultural Images of the Holy Land and Trees, Plants, and Flowers of the Holy Land.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Joseph Lauer

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Ongoing Excavations of Herodium

Shmuel Browns was at the Herodium a few days ago and had a chance to talk with archaeologists excavating the staircase area. He shares what he learned as well as some hastily-taken photos on his blog.

If you missed it, Shmuel also has some rare images of the VIP box of Herodium’s theater. Check those out here.

Thanks, Shmuel, for sharing the news and photos! Hopefully the area will be open to the public before too long.

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Monumental Entrance Discovered at Herodium

The more you learn, the more you discover how little you know. That seems to be the story at Herodium, as the uncovering of a monumental entrance suggests a more complicated building history than previously understood. From a press release of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem:

Archaeologists from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology have discovered a monumental entryway to the Herodian Hilltop Palace at the Herodium National Park. The unique complex was uncovered during excavations by The Herodium Expedition in Memory of Ehud Netzer over the past year, as part of a project to develop the site for tourism.
The main feature of the entryway is an impressive corridor with a complex system of arches spanning its width on three separate levels. These arches buttressed the corridor’s massive side-walls, allowing the King and his entourage direct passage into the Palace Courtyard. Thanks to the supporting arches, the 20-meter long and 6-meter wide corridor has been preserved to a height of 20 meters.
The Hebrew University archaeologists — Roi Porat, Yakov Kalman and Rachel Chachy — suggest that the corridor was built as part of Herod’s plan to turn Herodium into a massive artificial volcano-shaped hill, a vast and impressive monument designed to commemorate the architect-King.
Surprisingly, during the course of the excavations, it became evident that the arched corridor was never actually in use, as prior to its completion it became redundant. This appears to have happened when Herod, aware of his impending death, decided to convert the whole hilltop complex into a massive memorial mound, a royal burial monument on an epic scale.
Whatever the case, the corridor was back-filled during the construction of the massive artificial hill at the end of Herod’s reign. The upper section of a new monumental stairway stretching from the hill’s base to its peak, constructed during the course of this building phase, appears to have been built over it.
The excavators point out that not only was the arched corridor covered over in the course of the construction of the hill-monument, but also all the structures earlier built by Herod on the hill’s slopes, including the Royal Theater uncovered by the expedition in 2008, while still led by Prof. Ehud Netzer, since deceased.

The press release continues with more discussion of the site history as well as plans to allow visitors access to all of the new discoveries. Photos are available here.

DSCF0950
Monumental entrance to Herodium
Photo credit: The Herodium Expedition at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
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Joseph Patrich and Benny Arubas offer four reasons against identifying the mausoleum discovered at the Herodium with the tomb of Herod. Unfortunately, they do not suggest an alternative identification.

Some IAA photos of the Byzantine monastery uncovered near Beth Shemesh are available for download. [link has expired]

The oldest known Jewish prayer book just went on display at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

3 Sea of Galilee Sites You’ll Pass But May Not See. Before you click, see if you can guess the three.

Ferrell Jenkins looks at two outstanding architectural remains in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin: the Miletus Market Gate and the Altar of Zeus.

Leon Mauldin has two illustrated posts about the two Temple boundary inscriptions: the complete one on display in Istanbul and the fragment in the Israel Museum.

The Baptist Press runs a story on the Bronze Age water system of Gezer.

Wheaton’s Archaeology Lecture Series 2014-2015 has two lectures remaining.

An electronic edition of supplementary volume of The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological 
Excavations in the Holy Land is now available to all members of the BAS Library.

Subscriptions are now available to the Loeb Classical Library, but the prices aren’t cheap and you must inquire by email.

In stock on Monday: the first volume of the Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity, edited by Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson ($20).

HT: Joseph Lauer

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Byzantine monastery near Beth Shemesh
Photo by Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
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Weekend Roundup, Part 1

The world’s largest Ark of the Covenant has been donated to Israel.

Leen Ritmeyer discusses the little-known Jewish excavation underneath the Temple Mount.

As for the recent challenge to the identification of Herod’s tomb at the Herodium, Ritmeyer sides with Netzer.

Have you been to Joseph’s tomb at Shechem? Ferrell Jenkins gives the biblical significance and a recent photo.

The Ephraim of Jesus’ day is modern Taybeh. There are more reasons to visit than ever before.

The “most popular photo” at The Bible and Interpretation is one our sunset shots over the Sea of
Galilee.

Tomb of Joseph, Nablous, ef0131
Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem
Photo source
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