Pilate stone

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Pilate stone
Replica casting on display in Caesarea Maritima[1]
Height82 cm
Width65 cm
CreatedAD 26–37
Caesarea, Israel
Present locationIsrael Museum
IdentificationAE 1963 number 104

The Pilate stone is a damaged block (82 cm x 65 cm) of carved limestone with a partially intact inscription attributed to, and mentioning, Pontius Pilate, a prefect of the Roman province of Judea from AD 26 to 36. It was discovered at the archaeological site of Caesarea Maritima in 1961. The artifact is particularly significant because it is an archaeological find of an authentic 1st-century Roman inscription mentioning the name "[Pont]ius Pilatus". It is contemporary to Pilate's lifetime, and accords with what is known of his reported career.[2][3] In effect, the inscription constitutes the earliest surviving, and only contemporary, record of Pilate, who is otherwise known from the New Testament and apocryphal texts, the Jewish historian Josephus and writer Philo, and brief references by Roman historians such as Tacitus.

It is likely that Pontius Pilate made his base at Caesarea Maritima – the site where the stone was discovered, since that city had replaced Jerusalem as the administrative capital and military headquarters of the province in AD 6.[4] Pilate probably travelled to Jerusalem, the central city of the province's Jewish population, only when necessary.[5]

The Pilate stone is currently held at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.[6][7] Plaster-cast replicas can be found at the Archaeological Museum in Milan, Italy, and on display in Caesarea Maritima itself.


On the partially damaged block is a dedication to the deified Augustus and Livia (the Augustan gods or "Divine Augusti"), the stepfather and mother of emperor Tiberius, originally placed within a Tiberieum, probably a temple dedicated to Tiberius. It has been deemed authentic because it was discovered in the coastal town of Caesarea, which was the capital of Iudaea Province[4] during the time Pontius Pilate was Roman governor.

The partial inscription reads (conjectural letters in brackets):[3]


The translation from Latin to English for the inscription reads:

To the Divine Augusti [this] Tiberieum
...Pontius Pilate
...prefect of Judea
...has dedicated [this]


Pontius Pilate inscription; the original stone, now located in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The limestone block was discovered in June 1961 by Italian archaeologist Maria Teresa Fortuna Canivet during a campaign led by Dr. Antonio Frova while excavating in the area of an ancient theatre built by decree of Herod the Great around 22–10 BC, along with the entire city of Caesarea.

The artifact is a fragment of the dedicatory inscription of a later building, probably a temple, that was constructed, possibly in honour of the emperor Tiberius,[8][9] dating to AD 26 to 36.[10]

The stone was then reused in the 4th century as a building block for a set of stairs belonging to a structure erected behind the stage house of the Herodian theatre, and it was discovered there, still attached to the ancient staircase, by the archaeologists.[11]


  1. ^ "The Pilate Inscription". K.C. Hanson. 10 August 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  2. ^ Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus: a re-examination of the evidence by Jonathan L. Reed 2002 ISBN 1563383942 p. 18
  3. ^ a b Studying the historical Jesus: evaluations of the state of current research by Bruce Chilton, Craig A. Evans 1998 ISBN 9004111425 p. 465
  4. ^ a b A History of the Jewish People, H.H. Ben-Sasson editor, 1976, p. 247: "When Judea was converted into a Roman province [in 6 CE, p. 246], the Romans moved the governmental residence and military headquarters from Jerusalem to Caesarea. The centre of government was thus removed from Jerusalem, and the administration became increasingly based on inhabitants of the Hellenistic cities (Sebaste, Caesarea and others).
  5. ^ Historical Dictionary of Jesus by Daniel J. Harrington 2010 ISBN 0810876671 p. 32
  6. ^ Jerry Vardaman, A New Inscription Which Mentions Pilate as 'Prefect' , Journal of Biblical Literature Vol. 81, 1962. pp. 70–71.
  7. ^ Craig A. Evans, Jesus and the ossuaries, Volume 44, Baylor University Press, 2003. pp. 45–47
  8. ^ Tacitus, Annals, 15.44
  9. ^ Josephus, Flavius. "§63". 18.89. Translated by Whiston, William. Lexundria.com. Retrieved 11 April 2017. before he could get to Rome Tiberius was dead {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  10. ^ "Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judah – Latin dedicatory inscription". The Israel Museum. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 1995–2015. Archived from the original on 7 November 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  11. ^ A.N. Sherwin-White, review of "A. Frova, L'iscrizione di Ponzio Pilato a Cesarea" in The Journal of Roman Studies, 54 (1964), p. 258.

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