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.