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Procurator’s Name at The Bottom of the Sea

Procurator’s Name at The Bottom of the Sea

Israeli Archaeologists uncovered a name Roman Procurator Gargilius Antiques engraved on a massive rectangular stone, during a maritime excavation at the Tel Dor archaeological site south of Haifa. The name was discovered underwater by researchers from the University of Haifa.  The name belongs to the Roman procurator who ruled in Judea prior to the second century Bar-Kochba Revolt.

The name Gargilius Antiques was engraved on a massive rectangular stone. The 85-cm. stone bearing Antiques’ name weighed in at over 600 kg., requiring a complicated engineering operation for removal, the university said.

“Not only did we manage to identify with certainty for the first time the name of the procurator that controlled Judea during the critical years before the Bar-Kochba Revolt, but this is only the second time that a reference to the name Judea was revealed in any inscription from the Roman period,” said Prof. Assaf Yasur-Landau and Dr. Gil Gambash in a joint statement.

Yasur-Landau managed the underwater excavation, while Gambash, the head of the Maritime Civilizations Department, helped in deciphering the inscription. The Bar-Kochba Revolt, which followed the rule of Gargilius Antiques, occurred from 132-136 CE, and was also known as the Third Jewish Revolt. Led by Shimon Bar-Kochba, the Jews were able to temporarily capture key Roman strongholds, including Jerusalem. Ultimately, the Jewish forces collapsed after a final battle in Beitar, Bar Kochba’s headquarters.

The Tel Dor coastal site, associated with the biblical era, operated until about the fourth century CE, according to the university.  A number of artifacts have been uncovered over the years at Tel Dor, including anchors, pottery and other relics from the time period. Yet in January, students from the University of Haifa lab of Ehud Arkin Shalev came across the giant rectangular stone and could already see an inscription etched on their find, a statement from the university said.

“Apparently, this was the base of a statue from Roman times and to the best of our knowledge, this is the longest inscription ever discovered underwater in Israel,” Yasur-Landau said.

While the deciphering work on the inscription, led by Gambash, is still not complete, the information acquired thus far is already proving significant to the archeologists. The Antiques name was once found on a similar inscription about 70 years ago, but the portion of that inscription that would have indicated over which province he ruled was not been preserved, according to the university. Scholars had debated whether Antiques might have been the procurator of the Syrian province rather than Judea, but the new rectangular stone has now clarified his identity – as ruler of Judea in 131 CE, just before the outbreak of the Bar-Kochba Revolt uprising.

The researchers also emphasized the unique nature of the fact that Judea was even mentioned in a Roman inscription, as such a reference has only been found in one other relic – a stone commemorating Pontius Pilate in Caesarea, they explained.

“Immediately after suppressing the Bar-Kochba Revolt, Rome decided to abolish the province of Judea, and erase all traces of its name, and as a result decided to connect it to Syria to create the province of Syria Palaestina,” the researchers said. “So we see an inscription that dates back to very shortly before Judea essentially ceased existing as a province with this name. Out of the two inscriptions that mention the name Judea, this is of course the later one, but in light of its rarity, it is reasonable to assume that few other inscriptions with the name Judea from later on will be found.”

Members of the public can now view the inscription in a new exhibit that opened on Wednesday at the university’s Younes and Soraia Nazarian Library.


Original Source: Jerusalem Post, Sharon Udasin, 2016.


I am an educator, researcher, a faculty member and an avid believer in online education. My specialties are Sacred Texts and Cultures (Second Temple period, early Judaism and nascent Christianity). I am passionate about meaning, context, and cultural transmission of ancient texts. My preoccupations with history, ancient languages and contextual interpretation often find expression in my blog posts. Every human has a pretext, every message has a context. Context changes everything! Enjoy reading.

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