Home Christian News Royal Purple Cloth From King David’s Era Found in Israel

Royal Purple Cloth From King David’s Era Found in Israel

Wool fibers dyed pink-purple hue (photo by Dafna Gazit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority).

The Times of Israel reports that researchers have found three purple textile scraps that date back to 1,000 BCE (Before the Common Era). Researchers estimate the scraps came from King David‘s era. The recent cloth findings are the earliest ever found in the region, and the find gives credibility and context to the period of time described in the Bible when King David conquered the Edomites.

Researchers use radiocarbon testing that allows them to determine how old the fabric is. The fabric was excavated in the Timna Valley near Eilat in southern Israel. The dry climate in the region allows for the preservation of organic materials.

The vibrant long-lasting color called “true” or “Tyrian Purple” comes from dye glands found in murex sea snails that are located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Producing the dye takes several days, and so fabrics of this color would have only been worn by royalty, priests, and nobles.

Shells of the three species of murex snails.
left to right: S. haemastoma, H. trunculus and B. brandaris (Photo by Shahar Cohen). Image credit: Sukenik N, Iluz D, Amar Z, Varvak A, Shamir O, Ben-Yosef E (2021) Early evidence of royal purple dyed textile from Timna Valley (Israel). PLoS ONE 16(1): e0245897. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0245897

Tel Aviv University Professor Erez Ben-Yosef, who has been excavating the Timna Valley region since 2013, said, “It is a very early period to find ‘true purple’ in use and it’s a very strange location. It’s deep in the desert, where we didn’t [traditionally] think these prestigious materials were in use. The discovery offers additional evidence for our new understanding of nomadic people at that time period, at the time of the emergence of these ancient kingdoms of Israel, Edom, Moab, Amon, the local kingdoms of the biblical time.”

Israel Antiquities Authority’s curator of organic finds, Naama Sukenik said, “I’m so happy that Erez [Ben-Yosef] gave us the opportunity to peek into the clothes closet from the period of David and Solomon and see the wardrobe of the elite that lived in the period at the copper mines. I suppose that if we were to peek into David and Solomon’s closet we’d see similar clothing — and perhaps even more true purple.”