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The Blue Stuff: Biblical Dye Found in Ancient Fabric

reposted from The Times of Israel
January 1, 2014

Color believed to be source for tinting knotted ritual ‘tzitzit’ fringes is identified in early cloth dyed with snail

An Israeli researcher said Monday she had identified a nearly 2,000-year old textile that may contain a mysterious blue dye described in the Bible, one of the few remnants of the ancient color ever found.

Naama Sukenik of Israel’s Antiquities Authority said Tuesday that recent examination of a small woolen textile discovered in Wadi Muraba’at caves south of Qumran in the 1950s found that the textile was colored with a dye from the Murex trunculus, a snail researchers believe was the source of a shade of blue described in the Bible.

Researchers and rabbis have long searched for the enigmatic color, called tekhelet in Hebrew. The Bible commands Jews to wear a blue fringe on their garments, but the dye was lost in antiquity.

The importance of this fabric is extremely significant as there practically exists no parallels on archaeological record, according to a statement from the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

In recent decades, researchers have revived the search for the source of the biblical blue.

Sukenik examined the textile for a doctorate at Bar-Ilan University and published the finding at a Jerusalem conference Monday.

 

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