Archaeology, Bible, Main, z217
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First example of the ancient ‘Royal Purple’ found in Israel


Wool died with Royal Purple Credit: Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority

According to report in the Daily Mail, archaeologists working in the Timma Valley in Southern Israel have discovered the remains of a fabric that was coloured in royal purple.

This was the first time an example of this expensive and rare colouring has been discovered. It was apparently preserved because of the area’s dry climate.

This ancient purple was reknown for its ability to hold its colour for long period of times. According to radio carbon testing the fabric was 3,000 years old.

Purple was extremely rare because it was produced in small amounts from a gland inside the mollusks found in the Mediterranean Sea. Each gland produced the equivalent of a single drop of the dye and according to reports it took about four million mollusks to produce a pound of dye.

At times, the purple dye was so expensive, it cost more than gold.

As a result of its rarity and expense, the colour quickly became associated with royalty in Biblical times.

Speaking for the Israel Antiquities Authority, Naama Sukenik stated:

‘This is the first piece of textile ever found from the time of David and Solomon that is dyed with the prestigious purple dye.’

‘In antiquity, purple attire was associated with the nobility, with priests, and of course with royalty.’

There are several references to the two basic shades of purple produced from the shellfish in the Bible, the purple (Hebrew argaman) and the bluer azure (Hebrew tekeleth). The ancients adjusted the colour by its initial exposure to light. .

In the book of Esther, we see a specific reference to the clothing worn by her Persian King husband, that included both shades of purple produced from the mollusks.

15 Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in a royal robe of violet (tekeleth) and white, with a large crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple (argaman); and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. (Esther 8:15 NASV)

The dye was also used to colour some of the tent coverings in the Tabernacle of Moses (Exodus 25:4) and as well the curtains that hung in Solomon’s temple and the High Priest’s clothing.

When King Solomon started constructing the Jewish Temple, he actually approached the King of Tyre to send special craftsmen skilled in working with violet and purple fabrics (2 Chronicles 2:3-7).

As we move into the New Testament, purple is still associated with royalty. When Christ was about to be crucified, the Roman guards not only made a crown of thorns, but also put a purple robe on the Lord’s shoulders as they mockingly referred to Jesus as the King of the Jews:

And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and placed it on His head, and put a purple cloak on Him; Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate *said to them, “Behold, the Man!” (John 19: 2, 5 NASV)

Purple is mentioned again when the Apostle Paul went to Philippi and we read that Lydia, a business woman from neighbouring Thyatira who sold purple cloth, became a believer (Acts 16:14). She would have undoubtedly been wealthy and later we later read that her home became the base for the church in Thyatira (Acts 16:40).

READ: A glimpse into the wardrobe of King Solomon: 3,000-year-old purple dyed thread discovered in Israel matches descriptions of the shade worn by royalty from the Bible AND Israeli Researchers Give Window into King David’s Wardrobe With Rare Discovery of Ancient Purple Fabric

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