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Fragment of the rare purple fabric from 1,000 BCE excavated in the Timna Valley

Ancient Cloth with Bible’s Purple Dye Found in Israel, Dated to King David’s Era

Three scraps from 1,000 BCE, the earliest such finds in the region, point to the Edomite kingdom described in the Bible; vibrant and lasting ‘royal’ dye, the mark of the elite, comes from murex sea snails.

Israeli researchers have found three textile scraps near the southern tip of Israel colored with the biblically described “argaman” royal purple dye, and dated them to circa 1,000 BCE — the era of King David. The earliest ever such finds in this region, the vibrant cloths add tangible weight, in particular, to the Bible’s account of an Edomite kingdom in the area at that time.

Colored with the most precious dye of the ancient world, the textile scraps were excavated in the Timna valley near Eilat, and offer startling new insight into an ancient elite class. The tiny, vibrantly colored Iron Age cloth pieces are the earliest evidence of this precious dye in the entire Southern Levant and shed new light on the early Edomite kingdom and Israelite kingdoms 3,000 years ago — a period when the Bible details the conquering of the Edomites by King David.

Also called “true” or “Tyrian purple,” the vibrant, millennia-lasting color is produced by dye glands gathered from three species of live murex sea snails on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. To reach the famed King Solomon Copper Mines at Timna near the shore of the Red Sea, the cloth would have traveled hundreds of kilometers, which only added to its prestige and value.

“It is a very early period to find ‘true purple’ in use and it’s a very strange location,” Tel Aviv University Prof. Erez Ben-Yosef told The Times of Israel Thursday, June 2. “It’s deep in the desert, where we didn’t [traditionally] think these prestigious materials were in use.”

The discovery, said Ben-Yosef, offers “additional evidence for our new understanding of nomadic people at that time period, at the time of the emergence of these ancient kingdoms of Israel, Edom, Moab, Amon, the local kingdoms of the biblical time.” Ben-Yosef has excavated at Timna since 2013. (TPI / VFI News)

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. - Romans 15:4