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Israel: Researchers find royal purple fabric from the days of David and Solomon

March 2021

Purple-dyed fabric dating back to the days of Kings David and Solomon has been discovered in Israel for the first time, according to archaeologists.

Radiocarbon dating confirmed the samples date from approximately 1000 BC, corresponding to the monarchies of David and Solomon in Jerusalem.

‘Royal’ or ‘Tyrian’ purple dye, which is believed to have been more valuable than gold, was possibly invented in Phoenicia as far back as 1570 BC, using the distilled secretions of sea snails.

Its use on fabrics is referenced in the Bible, including in connection with Solomon’s temple.

But scientists had never previously found direct evidence of this ancient industry in the region save for remnants of mollusc shell and traces of purple on pottery fragments.

‘This is a very exciting and important discovery,’ said Dr Naama Sukenik, curator of organic finds at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

‘This is the first piece of textile ever found from the time of David and Solomon that is dyed with the prestigious purple dye.

‘In antiquity, purple attire was associated with the nobility, with priests, and, of course, with royalty.’

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