Fabrics dyed in imperial purple found in Israel

Fabrics dyed in imperial purple found in Israel


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Although numerous Roman period fabrics In the territory of ancient Judea, in Israel, only a few were treated with dye extracted from the Milex mollusk, a kind of snail whose bronchial glands secreted a substance with which the purple of Tire or imperial purple was made, a symbol of royal power and a luxury item whose origin dates back to the time of the Phoenicians.

Now a group of researchers from different Israeli universities, such as Professor Zohar Amar and his thesis student Na’ama Sukenik, have found new textile pieces dyed with the substance of the Milex snail in the caves of Murabba’at south of Qumran.

Among the more than 180 tissues that have been found, only two of them would have been stained with snail and cochineal dye, two very expensive materials that gave rise to the indigo, vermilion and purple colors typical of the robes of royalty and high society. The rest of the fabrics were colored with more economical dyes extracted from plants.

A third woolen fabric has prompted a more exhaustive study that has revealed a hitherto unknown method of dyeing clothes. The textile material had been stained with Milex's glandBut afterwards it had been exposed to the sun, or perhaps heated, giving it a bluish or indigo hue. The discovery of these fabrics is important as few have been found to retain traces of their original dye.

Regarding the origin of the same, several possibilities are considered: they could have belonged to the Jewish refugees who escaped after the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135) of the Jews against Roman rule. Its owners could also have been the soldiers of a unit that settled in Murabba’at after the uprising.

Even though In ancient times the color purple was a sign of the quality of clothing and the social status of the individual who wore it, It seems that in the Hellenistic-Roman period this became popular among the wealthiest people. The emperors took action against this abuse of imperial symbology, prohibiting the wearing of purple fabrics and raising the cost of Milex's dyes, whose value came to be equated with that of gold.

Romantic, in the artistic sense of the word. In my adolescence both family and friends reminded me over and over that I was an inveterate humanist, as I spent time doing what perhaps others did not, believing myself to be Bécquer, immersed in my own artistic fantasies, in books and movies, constantly wanting to travel and explore the world, admired for my historical past and for the wonderful productions of the human being. That is why I decided to study History and combine it with Art History, because it seemed to me the most appropriate way to carry out the skills and passions that characterize me: reading, writing, traveling, researching, knowing, making known, educating. Disclosure is another of my motivations, because I understand that there is no word that has real value if it is not because it has been transmitted effectively. And with this, I am determined that everything I do in my life has an educational purpose.


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