On November 29, 2018, news broke out of Jerusalem that a ring had been discovered at Herod the Great’s eponymous mountain fortress of Herodium, just 3 miles southeast of Bethlehem. Two facts about the simple copper-alloy piece of jewelry were reason for worldwide headlines. First, the ring was discovered at Herodium … in 1969! The ring was actually unearthed during an excavation led by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor Gideon Foerster during the 1968–1969 season. However, only recently did a thorough cleaning and advances in photographic technology allow for the second interesting fact about this ring to be exposed: It bears the Greek inscription ΠΙΛΑΤΟ (PILATO)—the name of Pontius Pilate!
Of course, the discovery of a ring bearing such an inscription is sensational. And the initial press reports were equally dramatic: “Ring of Roman Governor Pontius Pilate Who Crucified Jesus Found in Herodion Site in West Bank” read one headline. Almost immediately, however, scholars began asking one important question about the peculiar spelling of Pilate’s name on the ring.