Evidence for plant dye of 3000-year-old textiles found

Researchers discovered evidence for plant dye conducting microscopic analysis of Iron Age textile fragments, dating to 11-10th cent. BC, discovered in the Timna Valley, South Israel.

Textiles under microscope (by Naama Sukenik & Israel Antiquities Authority)

The dyes are the earliest examples of the remains of plant-based dyes to have been found in Israel and in the are of Levant. Scientists identified the dyes using HPLC advanced analytical equipment. The analysis revealed that two plant dyes were used – madder, whose roots provided a red dye, and indigotin, which was used as a blue dye. Researchers state that both these plants are among the best-known plant dyes in the ancient world and that the textiles from Timna were coloured with true dye, which is characterized by a chemical bond between dye and fibre, attesting to professional knowledge and skill in the art of dyeing during this period.

Excavation at Timna Valley (by Erez Ben-Yosef & Tel Aviv University)

The site where the woollen dyed fabric was found dates back to the Iron Age and consists of remains of a copper smelting and mining site. According to archaeologists the society at Timna, identified with the Kingdom of Edom, was hierarchical and included an upper class that had access to colourful, prestigious textiles. The context in which the textiles were found suggests that the metalworkers responsible for operating the smelting furnaces were members of this class.

Dyed textile under microscope (by Clara Amit & Israel Antiquities Authority)

(after Jewish Press, Naama Sukenik, Israel Antiquities Authority, Erez Ben-Yosef, Tel Aviv University & Clara Amit)

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