Ancient stone tablet reveals name of biblical-era ruler of Judea

(Reuters/Mohamad Torokman/Files)A view shows Jordan Valley near the West Bank city of Jericho in this January 20, 2016 file photo.

The discovery of a 1,800-year-old stone tablet on the seabed off the coast of Israel reveals the name of the ruler during one of the bloodiest periods in Jewish history — the Bar Kokhba revolt, during which the Jews of the Judea revolted against the Roman Empire.

Archeologists from the University of Haifa found the stone slab at Tel Dor, an underwater area 18 miles south of Haifa. Tel Dor was once the site of the biblical city of Dor. The massive stone tablet has an inscription that consists of seven lines of ancient Greek. It has since been brought out of the water.

The researchers have yet to decipher the text its entirety, but they have already achieved two important things in the discovery of the stone tablet.

The first one is the definite identification of Gargilius Antiquus as the governor of Judea during the period. The same name also appeared on another inscription that was unearthed seven decades ago, but the first one did not indicate what province he commanded.

The other achievement is the discovery of a second artifact on which the name "Judea" appears. Such is important in the archeological world because following the Bar Kochba revolt in 131 C.E., the Romans changed the status of the province of Judea and wiped out mentions of its name. What was then Judea was merged with Syria to form the province of Syria-Palaestina. The only other item that bears the name "Judea" has an inscription that also mentions the name Pontius Pilate.

Researchers from the university are currently working on deciphering the inscription. "Together with the inscription that was found around the time the State of Israel was established, we have here two monuments honoring and lauding the governor Antiquus. The question is – why? Do these inscriptions mark two different significant events, or was it the usual practice to erect a new sculpture for the patron of the city without any special reason?" a press release from the researchers reads.

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