Researchers in Israel have found a purple dye on a piece of ancient fabric dating back to the reign of the Biblical King David. The 3,000-year-old fragments of fabrics were unearthed at the site of Timna in Israel's Negev.
According to researchers, this newly discovered dye was not only more valuable than gold but also associated with royalty. This is the first time a textile from that era with color has been discovered in the region. That particular color is mentioned in the Jewish, as well as Christian holy texts and said to be worn by King David, King Solomon and Jesus.
The third chapter of Song of Songs reads: "King Solomon made for himself the carriage; he made it of wood from Lebanon. Its posts he made of silver, its base of gold. Its seat was upholstered with purple, its interior inlaid with love."
An Important Discovery
The archaeologists discovered the fragment during an excavation at a site in Timna, which is located almost 220 kilometers south of Jerusalem. Dr. Naama Sukenik, who is an Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) expert, called the finding a "very exciting and important discovery".
Dr. Sukenik conducted the study on the ancient fragment along with Professor Erez Ben-Yosef from the Jacob M. Alkow Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at Tel Aviv University. Professor Zohar Amar, Dr. David Iluz and Dr. Alexander Varvak from Bar-Ilan University, as well as Dr. Orit Shamir from the IAA also collaborated in this research.
According to Dr. Sukenik, in ancient times, purple attire was associated with the nobility, priests, and royalty. "The gorgeous shade of the purple, the fact that it does not fade, and the difficulty in producing the dye, which is found in minute quantities in the body of mollusks, all made it the most highly valued of the dyes," said the researcher, reported BBC.
Prof. Erez said that when the material containing the purple dye was discovered during the excavation at the site known as Slaves' Hill, the color immediately "attracted our attention". But the researchers could not believe that they have found the true purple from such an ancient period. However, when researchers used the carbon dating method, they came to know that the fragment belonged to the time of about 1,000 BC.
Dr. Sukenik told The Jerusalem Post that this study was very important for many reasons. "The remains carrying this color [purple] so often described in the Bible are rare, and this is the first time that we uncovered some dating back to the Iron Age," he explained.
She said that the finding also revealed more about the people who used to live in Timna. It proves that upper-class people inhabited the region.
"Purple was the color worn by the elites. While we cannot say who the fragments of fabrics we found belonged to, one thing is sure: if we had been able to open King David or King Salomon's wardrobes, we would have found clothes dyed in this color," the researcher added.