The findings were announced at a recent conference in Jerusalem celebrating the 100th anniversary of the publication of Chief Rabbi Dr. Isaac Halevi Herzog’s doctoral dissertation on tekhelet.
Three swatches of fabric discovered in the 1950s in a cave at Wadi Murba’at near the Dead Sea were tested by Dr. Sukenik. Analysis indicated that the swatches were dyed with secretions from the Murex trunculus. Two of the swatches were purple, while the third swatch was indigo—demonstrating that the ancient dyers exposed the latter fabric to sunlight or heat once dyed to achieve this shade of blue. According to the IAA, this dye may have been made by the same process the ancient dyers used to produce tekhelet.
In the Archaeological Views column “The Great Tekhelet Debate—Blue or Purple?” (BAR, September/October 2013) Baruch and Judy Taubes Sterman suggest that God’s chosen color for the ancient Israelites was a sky-blue derived from murex dye. Read a debate between the Stermans and Zvi C. Koren in the BAS tekhelet Scholar’s Study debate.
In the Bible, tzitzit—tassels tied to the corners of garments—were dyed a shade of blue called tekhelet, God’s chosen color (Numbers 15:38–39). Tekhelet was also the color of the robes worn by High Priests (Exodus 28:31).
The actual color of tekhelet, whether it was sky-blue or purple—or somewhere in between—has been heavily disputed. Read the debate between Baruch and Judy Taubes Sterman of the Ptil Tekhelet Foundation and Professor Zvi C. Koren, director of the Edelstein Center for the Analysis of Ancient Artifacts, on Bible History Daily.