Hidden in Plain Sight—Painted Phoenician Ivories

Bible and archaeology news

Recent research exposed hints of red and purple dye on this ivory tablet from Arslan Tash, stored in the Louvre in Paris.

The Phoenicians prospered for 1200 years on the Levantine coast, inspiring the Mediterranean world with economic, literary and colonial achievements. To compensate for their limited agricultural land, they established an extensive maritime trade network, exporting treasured Cedars of Lebanon, elaborate ivory and metal crafts and purple dye extracted from murex shells. While Phoenician pigmentation was a definitive mark of their culture—the word Phoenician derives from the Greek phoinix, which may refer to the hue of a dye—their weathered ivory carvings reach modern viewers in their natural, off-white shade. French and German researchers recently discovered nearly-invisible traces of metal on Phoenician ivories, suggesting the presence of dyes including copper-based Egyptian blue and iron-based hematite, according to a recent X-ray fluorescence microimaging study published in Analytical Chemistry. The researchers’ methods can be applied to a wide variety of ancient sites and artifacts, allowing us to recreate the ancient world with a new and colorful vividness.

Read more in Chemical and Engineering News or click here to read the original study in Analytical Chemistry.
 


 
BAS Library Members: Read Millard, Alan R. “Well-Hidden Ivories Surface at Nimrud” as it appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review, Jul/Aug 2011.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.

Posted in Cultural Heritage, News.

Tagged with , , , .

Add Your Comments

2 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. JAllan says

    Interesting new information. Of course, although scholars (and lay people who read books and magazines about antiquity) realize that most of the sculptures and buildings that have come down to us with the color bleached out by time were originally brightly colored, most schoolchildren who see the photos of such relics are completely unaware that this was so, and so even as adults most of us imagine the off white of marble as the “natural” color of ancient art and architecture. Actually, the only part of “pop culture” that gets this part right is Hollywood, as we see in epics such as “Antony and Cleopatra” and “The Ten Commandments” with their gaudily painted Egyptian palaces.

    A few years ago BAR had an article in which an Israeli archeologist, linguist and chemist found that the same shellfish that produced Tyrian Purple also produced, with a different process involving oxidation ( I have forgotten the details), the bright blue designated in the Bible as one of the divinely mandated colors of the Tabernacle furnishings and the priestly robes.

    Is the Greek word from which Phoenicia is derived the same word used for the mythical Phoenix bird? And if so, what is the connection with Phoenicians? I do not remember reading about a fire or other destruction from which they recovered; is there such an event recorded in their history? Did Greeks believe that Phoenicians were, for example, descendants of refugees from Atlantis?

  2. Scott says

    “The Phoenicians prospered for 1200 years on the Levantine coast, inspiring the Mediterranean world with economic, literary and colonial achievements. To compensate for their limited agricultural land, they established an extensive maritime trade network”

    How extensive was it?
    http://www.truth1.org/rev8_bab.htm#27:%201-6
    It was very extensive. I dare day it reached well in to SE Asia and Asian Pacific, as well as the Mediterranean. Take a gander at Ezekiel 27 on my site and see what was truly the greatest empire till Rome arrived and slowly whittled Phoenicia down. See if Javan = Java or Yawa or Japan = Javan. More to consider as well. Ezekiel 27 is an amazing account.


Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.


Enter Your Log In Credentials

Change Password

×