In the context of a broad study aimed at examining dyeing technologies in the Timna textiles collection, three samples of prestigious fibers dyed with murex sea snail were identified. Our identification is based on the presence of 6-monobromoindigotin and 6,6-dibromoindigotin components (detected using HPLC analysis), which is considered unequivocal evidence for the use of murex-derived purple dyestuff. Furthermore, by comparing the analytical results with those obtained in a series of controlled dyeing experiments we were able to shed more light on the specific species used in the dyeing process and glean insights into the ancient dyeing technology. The samples originated from excavations at the extensive Iron Age copper smelting site of “Slaves’ Hill” (Site 34), which is tightly dated by radiocarbon to the late 11th–early 10th centuries BCE. While evidence for the important role of purple dyes in the ancient Mediterranean goes back to the Middle Bronze Age (early 2nd millennium BCE), finds of dyed textiles are extremely rare, and those from Timna are the oldest currently known in the Southern Levant. In conjunction with other observations of the very high quality of the Timna textiles, this provides an exceptional opportunity to address questions related to social stratification and organization of the nomadic society operating the mines (early Edom), the “fashion” of elite in the region during the early Iron Age, trade connections, technological capabilities, and more.
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© 2021 Sukenik et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.