The scarlet dye of the holy land

Zohar Amar, Hugo Gottlieb, Lucy Varshavsky, David Iluz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We present evidence based on chemical analysis that identifies the scarlet dye produced by the scale insect Kermes echinatus as the shani ("red" in Hebrew) used toward the end of the second Holy Temple (AD 70). We know that this dye is produced by a coccoid species of scale. However, it is not yet known which of the coccoid species was used in the Holy Land in ancient times. Our results confirm the presence of the red pigment kermesic acid in K. echinatus extracts. The fact that K. echinatus is found in Israel suggests that the origin of the shani color mentioned in the Bible could have been local and that this dye was not an import from abroad, as most scholars have assumed. Our hypothesis, backed by our long-term observations, is supported by the color quality of kermesic acid, by the relative concentration of the pigment, and by the prevalence of K. echinatus in Israel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1080-1083
Number of pages4
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2005


  • Coccoid scale
  • Kermes oak
  • Kermesic acid
  • Pigments
  • Scarlet dye


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