In the ancient Middle East, purple was a symbol of prestige: To produce dye of this “royal” color, people had to collect and smash sea snails for their juices. Priests and royalty, including Kings David and Solomon, are often described in the Bible wearing clothing dyed with these extracts. Now, archeologists have excavated the oldest example of this purple dye ever found throughout the southern Levant, dated from 1000 B.C.E., The Times of Israel reports. The dyed wool fragments were found in an ancient copper mine at the Timna Valley in southern Israel, and go back to King David’s era, researchers report this week in PLOS ONE. Chemical analyses revealed the dye came from sea snails in the Mediterranean, more than 300 kilometers away from the site. The discovery opens a new window into the fashion trends and trade connections of the elite in the region during the early Iron Age.
sciencemag.org, 29 January 2021