A Biblical-Era Purple-Dye Factory Explains an Archaeological Mystery

Two of the dyes mentioned frequently by the Bible in conjunction with the priestly vestments and the Tabernacle tapestries—one purple, one azure—are thought by many experts to have been produced from the murex snail. To ancient Romans, “Tyrean purple” (named for the Lebanese city of Tyre) was the color of royalty. Using modern techniques to examine items collected in the excavation of Tel Shikmona, an ancient site on the Israeli coast, archaeologists have determined that they belonged to a workshop for processing the pigments of the murex—making it the first such site ever to be discovered, as Aaron Reich writes:

The site, which is south of Haifa, dates back to the Iron Age (the 11th–6th centuries BCE) and was first excavated in the 1960s. . . . Tel Shikmona, despite being well documented throughout history, often confused scholars as to why it was established. The shore was too rocky to serve as a harbor, and the land around it was not especially suitable for agriculture. The most notable clues up until this point were the abundance of Phoenician pottery, and large amounts of purple coloring preserved in ceramic vats.

Findings of purple coloring from this period are exceptionally rare, the researchers stated, and were found only in small amounts in other places. Not only did Tel Shikmona contain an unprecedentedly large amount—indicating production of the dye—but it also contained looms and spindles indicating manufacturing of textiles as well.

Purple dye, made from the murex snails, was the most expensive in the ancient world. . . . In fact, the exact process of making purple coloring is still not understood by modern scholars.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Hebrew Bible

The Evidence of BDS Anti-Semitism Speaks for Itself

Oct. 18 2019

Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs recently released a lengthy report titled Behind the Mask, documenting the varieties of naked anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery employed by the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the Jewish state (BDS). Drawn largely but not exclusively from Internet sources, its examples range from a tweet by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (the “world would be soooo much better without jews man”), to an enormous inflated pig bearing a star of David and floating behind the stage as the rock musician Roger Waters performs, to accusations by an influential anti-Israel blogger that Israel is poisoning Palestinian wells. Cary Nelson sums up the report’s conclusions and their implications, all of which give the lie to the disingenuous claim that critics of BDS are trying to brand “legitimate criticism of Israel” as anti-Semitic.

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Fathom

More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Roger Waters, Social media