A Look at King David and King Solomon’s Queen Purple Wardrobe – 3,000 years ago

Wool fibers dyed with Royal Purple, BC. 1000, Timna Valley, Israel. Credit: Dafna Gazit, with the permission of the Israeli Antiques Authority

A joint study by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, Tel Aviv University and Bar Ilan University.

“King Solomon made a chariot for himself; made it of wood from Lebanon. And he made the pillars of silver, and the soles of them of gold. The seat is covered in purple and decorated with love. ”(Song of Solomon 3: 9-10)

For the first time since the time of King David and King Solomon, a rare piece of evidence painted in purple has been found.

In a years-long study of colored fabrics from the Timna Valley, an ancient copper-producing region in southern Israel, researchers were surprised to find remnants of woven fabric, a tassel, and wool fibers dyed with royal purple. The history of direct radiocarbon dating back to about 2 BC, according to the biblical monarchies of David and Solomon in Jerusalem. Confirms that it belongs to 1000. The paint, made from mollusk species found in the Mediterranean Sea, 300 km from the city of Timna, is often mentioned in the Bible and appears in various Jewish and Christian contexts.

The purple color is the first discovery of Iron Age tissues throughout Israel or indeed the Southern Levant. Dr. Israel Antiques Office of Research. Naama Sukenik and Prof. Zohar Amar, along with Jacob M. Alkow of the University of Tel Aviv, Professor of Archeology and Ancient Middle Eastern Cultures. Erez Ben-Yosef, Dr. Bar-Ilan University. David Iluz and Dr. Dr. Alexander Varvak and the Office of Antiquities of Israel. Orit Shamir.

Unexpected findings are published today (January 28, 2021) in a prestigious place PLOS ONE Journal.

Decorated Wool Textile Fabric

A piece of woolen textile decorated with ropes dyed in royal purple, BC. 1000, Timna Valley, Israel. Credit: Dafna Gazit, with the permission of the Israeli Antiques Authority

“This is a very exciting and important discovery,” said Dr. Curator of Organic Discovery at Israel’s Ancient Operations Department. Naama Sukenik explains. “This is the first piece of textile dyed purple since the time of David and Solomon. In ancient times, purple was associated with nobles, priests, and, of course, royalties.

“The magnificent shade of purple, the fact that it does not fade, and the difficulty in producing paint, which is found in the body of mollusks in a matter of minutes, all made it the most appreciated among the frequently used dyes. more than gold. Prior to the current discovery, we had only encountered mollusk shell waste and pottery with a patch of paint that proved purple industry in the Iron Age. We now have direct evidence that, for the first time, painted fabrics have been preserved for about 3,000 years. ”

Prof. Archeology Department of Tel Aviv University. Erez Ben-Yosef said, “Our archeological expedition has been conducting continuous excavations in Timna since 2013. As a result of the extremely dry climate of the region, we can restore organic materials such as textiles and cords. Since the time of David and Solomon, the skin of the Iron Age has given us a unique perspective on the Bible.

Drilling of Slaves Hill

Drilling the Slave Hill. Credit: Sagi Bornstein, with permission from the Central Timna Valley Project.

“If we had excavated in Jerusalem for more than a hundred years, we would not have discovered textiles from 3,000 years ago,” he said. The state of protection in Timna is exceptional, and only parallels it in later places, such as Masada and the Jewish Caves. In recent years, we are digging a new place in Timna known as’ Slaves’ Hill ‘. This name may be misleading, because far from being slaves, the workers were highly skilled metalworkers. Timna was a center for copper production, equivalent to the modern Iron Age. Copper smelting needed an advanced understanding of metallurgy, which was a protected secret, and those who had this knowledge were the Hi-Tech specialists of the time. Slaves’ Hill is the largest copper smelting site in the valley and is filled with piles of industrial waste such as slag from smelting furnaces.

“One of these piles gave three pieces of colored crumbs. The color immediately caught our attention, but it’s hard to believe that we found purple in such an ancient period. ”

According to researchers, the real purple [argaman] Three species of Mediterranean mollusks were produced: Banded Dye-Murex (Hexaplex trunculus), Yarn Dye-Murex (Bolinus brandaris) and Red-mouthed Rock-Shell (Stramonita haemastoma). The dye is produced by a complex chemical process that lasts several days from a gland located in the body of the mollusk.

Today, most scientists agree that there are two precious dyes that are purple [argaman] and light blue or blue [tekhelet] The purple dye was produced under different light conditions than the mollusk. When exposed to light, a blue color is obtained, a shade of purple is obtained without exposure to light. These colors are often mentioned together in ancient sources, and both have symbolic and religious significance to this day. The priests of the temple, David and Solomon, and Jesus of Nazareth are all depicted as dressed in purple.

Prof. Zohar Amar and Dr. Analytical tests conducted in the laboratories of Bar Ilan University, along with dyes reconstructed by Naama Sukenik, can determine the types used to dye Timna tissues and the desired shade. To rebuild the mollusk dyeing process, Prof. Amar went to Italy, where he beat thousands of mollusks (eaten by Italians) and produced hundreds of dyes from raw materials used in ancient dyeing attempts.

Prof. Amar says, “Practical work has taken us back thousands of years and allowed us to better understand the dark historical sources associated with the precious colors blue and purple.”

The dye has been identified by an advanced analytical device (HPLC) that indicates the presence of unique dye molecules derived only from certain mollusk species. According to Dr. Naama Sukenik, “Most of the colored tissues found in Timna and in archaeological research in general have been dyed using a variety of plant dyes that are readily available and easier to dye. The use of animal-based paints is considered more prestigious and is an important indicator of the high economic and social status of the user. The remains of the purple cloth we found are the oldest not only in Israel, but in the South Levant in general.

We believe that we were able to define a double dyeing method in one of the pieces in which two types of mollusks are used in an advanced way to enrich the dye. This technology has been described by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder since the first century AD, and the paint he produced was considered the most prestigious. ”

Prof. Ben-Joseph describes the copper production center in Timna as part of the Kingdom of Edom in the Bible, which borders the southern kingdom of Israel. According to him, the dramatic findings should revolutionize our understanding of nomadic societies in the Iron Age. “The new findings reinforce the possibility that Timna is an elite that affirms a stratified society,” he said.

“In addition, because the mollusks are native to the Mediterranean, this society has continued to trade openly with other peoples living on the coast.” However, we have no evidence of permanent settlements in Edomite. The Kingdom of Edomite was a kingdom of nomads in the early Iron Age. When we think of nomads, it is difficult to free ourselves from comparisons with modern Bedouins, and therefore it is difficult to imagine kings without cities with magnificent stone palaces and walls. However, under certain conditions, nomads can also create a complex socio-political structure that biblical writers can define as a kingdom.

“Of course, all these controversies resonated at the same time that we understood Jerusalem. We know that the tribes of Israel were nomads from the beginning and that the period of settlement was gradual and long. Archaeologists are searching for King David’s palace. However, David may have expressed his wealth not in magnificent buildings, but in objects more suited to a nomadic heritage, such as textiles and artifacts. ”

According to Ben-Joseph, “If no magnificent buildings or castles have been found, it is wrong to think that the biblical depictions of the United Monarchy in Jerusalem are literary fabrications. A new study we conducted in Timna showed us that even without such buildings, there were kings in our region who ruled complex societies, formed alliances and trade relations, and fought wars against one another. The wealth of a nomadic society was measured not by stone palaces and monuments, but by things that were no less valuable in the ancient world — for example, purple paint, traded in copper and copper alloys produced in Timna. ”

Reference: January 28, 2021, PLOS ONE.
DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0245897

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