Research students, Ehud Arkin-Shalev and Michelle Kreiser, from the Coastal Archeological Laboratory at Haifa University, discovered a large stone tablet etched with an ancient Roman inscription at the bottom of the Tel Dor reserve, about 18 miles (30 kilometers) south of the city of Haifa.
The area once housed the Biblical city of Dor, which was occupied until the fourth century. Over the last 70 years, the site has yielded a treasure trove of pottery, anchors, and other artifacts from ancient Israel.
Upon consulting the Israel Antiquities Authority and Nature and Parks Authority, a decision was made to remove the tablet from the sea as soon as possible to prevent damage to the inscription.
The excavation site was led by Prof. Assaf Yasur-Landau from Haifa University, who identified the stone inscription of seven lines. The rectangular stone is roughly 85 centimeters long and weighs about 600 kilograms. The slab dates to the second century A.D., a bloody time in Jewish history when a fiery leader named Simon bar Kokhba led a failed revolt against Roman rulers.
“Apparently, this is the base of a statue from Roman times, and according to the best of our knowledge, this is the longest inscription ever discovered underwater in Israel”, explained Prof. Yasur-Landau. “Not only did we decipher for the first time the name of the governor who ruled Judea during the critical years before Bar Kokhba revolt, but this is the second time that the name Judea is mentioned in writing from the Roman period.”
The only other mention of the name Judea was on a tablet discovered in Caesarea, which also bore the name of a previous governor, Pontius Pilate.
Dr. Gil Gambash, head of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at Haifa University, explained that the beginning of the study was to identify the name of the governor of Judea during that period. “On the tablet, the name Gargilius Antiquus is written along with his position; governor of Judea,” explained Gambash. “The name of Antiquus is found on another inscription that was discovered at Tel Dor 70 years ago, but the section of the inscription dealing with the provincial governor did not survive.”
Previous research posited that Antiquus was commissioner of the province of Syria, but in light of this discovery, it is proved without a doubt that Gargilius Antiquus was the Roman governor of Judea in the years before the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 131 CE.
“After the suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt, Rome decided to do away with the province of Judea and to erase any trace of its name, so Rome combined it with Syria, renaming the province Syria-Palestine,” explained Gambash.