Israeli divers working with the University of Haifa have found a rare archaeological artifact shedding light on a previously unknown Roman prefect of the province of Judea in the time before the Bar Kochba revolt.
A large rock bearing a 1,900-year-old inscription was discovered on the seabed off the coast, south of Haifa, in the Mediterranean Sea earlier this year, bearing the name of Gargilius Antiques and mentioning the province of Judea.
The archaeologists were able to determine that Antiques ruled over Judea just prior to the legendary revolt against the Roman Empire, fought from 132 to 136 AD. The uprising was eventually crushed, resulting in the exile of Jews, and Emperor Hadrian’s renaming Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina and Judea Syria Palestina.
The artifact, believed to be the base of a statue, was found in January 2016 as part of a maritime excavation at the Tel Dor archaeological site. The city had been an important port in Roman times and was active at least until the fourth century.
The rock, measuring 70 by 65 centimeters and weighing over 600 kilograms, was covered in sea creatures when it was discovered, according to Haaretz.
“Not only were we able for the first time to identify with certainty the name of the ruler who oversaw Judea in the critical years the Bar Kochba revolt; this is also just the second time that the mention of Judea has been discovered in inscriptions traced back to Roman era,” said Prof. Assaf Yasur-Landau of Haifa University, who was in charge of deciphering the text.
Antiques’s name was first found in an inscription some 70 years ago, but mention of the territory he ruled over was not preserved.
At seven lines, the text discovered this year, Yasur-Landau said, “is the longest discovered in maritime excavations in Israel.”
It is missing a portion but is believed to read: “The City of Dor honors Marcus Paccius, son of Publius, Silvanus Quintus Coredius Gallus Gargilius Antiquus, governor of the province of Judea, as well as […] of the province of Syria, and patron of the city of Dor.”