A unique Roman-era stone was discovered underwater early this year. Pulled from waters just off the coast of southern Haifa, its Greek inscription confirms the identity of a Roman procurator who ruled in Judea almost 1,900 years ago.
The inscription also reaffirms that during the Roman era, Greek, not Latin, was a common language of commerce, law and literature throughout an empire of many different tongues.
The Roman curator in question governed in Judea just before the Bar Kochba revolt when Jewish forces were led by Simon bar Kokba, a figure who may have presented himself as the Messiah.
Bar Kokba let his troops in raids against Roman forces from the years 132 to 136 CE.
The Roman governor he targeted, confirmed by archaeologists who have studied the recovered ston just off the shores of Haifa, was Gargilius Antiques.
The stone itself is a rectangular block. Measuring 34 inches long (87cm) weighing more than 1,300 pounds (600kg), was near a Tel, a mound that hides a buried city. In this case, that city is Dor.
According to the book of Joshua in the Bible, Dor was an ancient city of the Canaanites. Its ruler was an ally of the King of Hazor. Together they fought the Israelite army led by Israel's military mastermind, Joshua.
After Joshua secured the city, it was allowed to the Israeli tribe called Asher.
Hundreds of years later, it was one of the place where one of the Greek Antiochus emperors battled a rebel from his own realm - but did so in the Holy Land, in the city of Dor.
By the time Rome came to rule the territory, Dor remained, mainly because of its strategic location. Atop a rocky hilltop spit of land that jutted into the Mediterranean, it was a safe haven for ships easily guarded by sentries far above.
The archaeologists in charge of recovering the stone were Professor Assaf Yasur-Landau and Dr. Gil Gambash. In a published statement, they said the find was unique on two levels.
"Not only does this confirm the identity of procurator who controlled Judea during the critical years before the Bar Kochba Revolt, it is also only the second Roman-era artifact to include the name Judea in an inscription."
The stone was discovered in January 2016. Removing it from the seabed did not happen right away. There were lengthy consultations on the proper way it should be handled.
Gargilius Antiques' name was also found on an inscription that was discovered more than 70 years ago, the location where he governed had worn away from the stone. Ever since, scholars have debated whether Antiques was the procurator of Rome's province in Syria or in Judea.
Now we know.