Issues

What color blue did King Solomon wear? New evidence tells us

Preserved pieces of cloth from King Solomon’s time point to a colorful clothing palette for metalworkers in biblical era Timna. This is the earliest evidence of a plant-based dye in Israel, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The arid desert conditions of Timna, found in Israel’s southern Negev desert, preserved the red and blue plant pigmentation found by archaeologists on dozens of fragments of 3,000-year-old textiles, according to a team of researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Tel Aviv University and Bar-Ilan University.

Since 2013, Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv University has directed excavations in the Timna Valley where his team has found textiles dating back to the Iron Age (11-10 centuries BCE). On some of the fragments, there is a decorative pattern of red and blue bands.

In an article published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, the researchers hypothesize that the metalworkers, considered fine craftsmen, “were probably entitled to wear colorful clothing as a mark of their high status.”

Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef (left) and Dr. Naama Sukenik examining fragments of colored textiles recovered at Timna. (Yolli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority)

According to Ben-Yosef and the IAA’s Dr. Naama Sukenik, the findings indicate that the society at Timna, identified with the Kingdom of Edom, was hierarchical and included an upper class that had access to colorful, prestigious textiles.