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Biblical 'Royal Purple' Cloth from David's Era Unearthed by Israeli Archaeologists

Michael Foust | Contributor | Monday, February 1, 2021
Purple dye, Archaeologists discover a rare Biblical purple dye

Biblical 'Royal Purple' Cloth from David's Era Unearthed by Israeli Archaeologists

Archaeologists in Israel have unearthed 3,000-year-old cloth remnants dating to the time of King David that are dyed with the unique royal purple described in the Bible as worn by biblical kings and even Jesus himself.

The scraps — the oldest ever found with the color — were uncovered in the Timna Valley in southern Israel.

The purple dye used in the cloth would have been extracted from mollusks harvested from the Mediterranean Sea, archaeologists told The Jerusalem Post. The purple is called “argaman.”

Purple was symbolic of royalty and the priesthood in the Bible. In the Old Testament, kings wore purple (Judges 8:26, Esther 8:15).

Song of Solomon 3:10 says of Solomon’s carriage: “Its posts he made of silver, its base of gold. Its seat was upholstered with purple, its interior inlaid with love.”

In the New Testament, the soldiers clothed Jesus “in a purple cloak” before he was crucified (Mark 15:17).

Archaeologists discussed the find in the journal Plos One.

“We have been working on this project for several years,” Naama Sukenik of the Israel Antiquities Authority told The Jerusalem Post. “This study is very important for several reasons. First of all, remains carrying this color so often described in the Bible are rare, and this is the first time that we uncovered some dating back to the Iron Age.”

“The discovery also tells us more about the people who lived at Timna, offering us proof that upper class people resided there,” Sukenik added. “Purple was the color worn by the elites. While we cannot say who the fragments of fabrics we found belonged to, one thing is sure: if we had been able to open King David or King Solomon’s wardrobes, we would have found clothes dyed in this color.”

The cloth remnants date to 1,000 B.C, the time of King David.

Photo courtesy: ©Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.