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The Biblical Dye Tekhelet and its Use in Jewish Textiles

Date : 2010-11-17 15:18:54

DescriptionTwo purple textile dyes are referred to in ancient records: one had a blue hue and the other a red. The bluish purple was named tekhelet in biblical and Talmudic Hebrew and ‘hyacinthine purple’ by the Romans. The reddish variety was called argaman in the Hebrew and ‘Tyrian purple’ by the Romans. Archaeological findings in the Mediterranean area have indicated that the ancients utilised three species of marine shellfish for dyeing, namely: banded dyemurex (Hexaplex trunculus (Linnaeus, 1758) = Phyllonotus trunculus, Murex trunculus), spiny dye-murex (Bolinus brandaris (Linnaeus, 1758) = Murex brandaris) and dogwinkle or rock-shell (Stramonita haemastoma (Linnaeus, 1766) = Thais haemastoma, Purpura haemastoma) (Fig. 1). All three are extant today and the dyes are prepared from their hypobranchial gland. The broken shells found at the sites of ancient purple dye-houses are principally those of banded dye-murex. This suggests that banded dye-murex was the main source of purple in antiquity. Now, there has been much confusion as to the colour and chemical composition of the dyestuff obtained from this shellfish.

Name of InstitutionThe Biblical Dye Tekhelet and its Use in Jewish Textiles

Author(s) NameKristen Patin

Added/Updated byKristen Patin

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