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Holy snails!
December 20, 2005 10:26 PM   Subscribe

A rabbi, some snails, the color purple, and a 1,500 year old mystery. By puzzling through various sources, a group of researchers and religious scholars think they have found in the mollusk Murex trunculus the source of a purplish dye that was used in ancient Jewish ceremonies over a millennia and a half ago. Murex has been used for the last 3,600 years to make Imperial or Tyrian Purple, a key color in the ancient world. There are many other pigments with their own interesting stories as well.
posted by blahblahblah (15 comments total)

 
Dyes are an interesting thing. Chemically, you want something that will stick with and stay stuck with the material that you want coloured. It's interesting, but not surprising (if a compound with strong electromagnetic absorbtion/reflection qualities can persist in [natural] textile, the odds that it intercalates into DNA isn't low enough to be inconsequential) that a lot of dyes are carcinogenic.

IUSYF_*&)hzFSfdh&FKJdosgdf\ *(&FfhSDS;lfudhf0DSfjhdo9d776

Sorry - organic chemistry flashback...
posted by PurplePorpoise at 11:34 PM on December 20, 2005


[this is good]
posted by dhruva at 11:39 PM on December 20, 2005


This reminds me of a dig I was participating in back in 2000 in ancient Carthage, arguably the greatest Phoenician colony.

The Punic layers of our digs were replete with murex shells. I saved one and have it my souvenir cabinet at home in, of course, Phoenix, Arizona...
posted by darkstar at 5:05 AM on December 21, 2005


This reminds me of a dig I was participating in back in 2000 in ancient Carthage,
I bet you don't get to drop that in conversation just every day, but it must be sweet when you can.

Cool post, blah. "Small mollusc of the Tideless Sea" is a front-runner among great first lines of poetry.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:32 AM on December 21, 2005


So somebody finally got around to asking a Palestinian, what a discovery!
posted by Pollomacho at 6:46 AM on December 21, 2005


:)
posted by darkstar at 6:53 AM on December 21, 2005


I actually visited the P'til Tekhelet centre when I was in Israel, and got a hands-on demonstration of the dye extraction process. Fascinating stuff! (I especially liked the part where they asked me to cut out the dye gland of the Murex -- it's tiny!)
posted by greatgefilte at 6:54 AM on December 21, 2005


nice post! thanks.
posted by shoepal at 7:03 AM on December 21, 2005


Oh, and despite my little ribbing, nice post, thanks!
posted by Pollomacho at 7:33 AM on December 21, 2005


Very interesting.
posted by caddis at 7:37 AM on December 21, 2005


This is a fantastic book about colours and also mentions murex.

I liked the section about cochineal better though... those little bugs have some wierd history.
posted by GuyZero at 7:48 AM on December 21, 2005


Does this mean I have to buy a new tallis?
posted by JeffK at 8:47 AM on December 21, 2005


This is a great post! Thanks. I've always been fascinated by natural dyes.
posted by LeeJay at 9:37 AM on December 21, 2005


Does this mean I have to buy a new tallis?

Come mister tallit man tally me banana...
posted by Pollomacho at 10:09 AM on December 21, 2005


Terrific post.
posted by Dr. Wu at 5:00 PM on December 21, 2005


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