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December 1, 2016 12:19 pm

Israeli Researchers Decipher Inscription on Rare Roman-Era Artifact Found Underwater

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The Roman-era rectangular stone discovered underwater at the Tel Dor archaeology site, south of Haifa. Photo Jenny Carmel.

The Roman-era rectangular stone discovered underwater at the Tel Dor archaeology site, south of Haifa. Photo Jenny Carmel.

JNS.org – Israeli researchers from the University of Haifa have deciphered a rare inscription found on an underwater artifact that sheds new light on Roman rule over the province of Judea just prior to the Third Jewish-Roman War, commonly known as the Bar Kokhba Revolt.

“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 Kokhba Revolt, but this is only the second time that a reference to the name Judea was revealed in any inscription from the Roman period,” Professor Assaf Yasur-Landau and Dr. Gil Gambash said in a joint statement.

In a maritime excavation at the Tel Dor archaeology site, located south of Haifa, a massive rectangular stone bearing the name “Gargilius Antiques” was uncovered. This is not the first time that name has been found — it was first seen on an inscription over seven decades ago — but this new artifact also indicated where Antiques ruled, bringing clarity to the subject of a years-long debate about which Roman prefect ruled the region.

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The Bar Kokhba Revolt, fought from 132-136 CE, arose from religious and political tensions following the failure of the First Revolt 60 years prior. Simon bar Kokhba promised to restore Jewish independence, but his efforts ended in a crushing defeat for the Jewish people that led to extensive Jewish depopulation in the land of Israel and Roman efforts to erase any memory of Judea or ancient Israel.

“Immediately after suppressing the Bar Kokhba 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 University of Haifa 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.”

The Tel Dor coastal site where the inscription was found had operated as a major port until about the 4th century CE.

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