This Is How The Phoenicians Produced The Tyrian Purple Dye

Tyre is among the world’s 20 oldest cities. It’s a Phoenician city that dates back to 2,750 B.C. One of its main sites is a hippodrome which is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

The Phoenicians were famous for trading in the Mediterranean region. They traded in Cedarwood, wine, and purple dye which is also known as Tyrian purple.

The color was discovered by the Phoenicians in 1570 BC. The dye was expensive, so only rich people could afford wearing purple clothes. It was valuable because the production process was hard.

How was Tyrian purple made?

The dye substance is a mucous secretion from medium-sized predatory sea snails which are also known as Murex. They are found in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Thes snails secrete this substance when they are attacked by predators or humans. The dye was collected by either “milking” the snails or crushing them. This produced a hideous stench.

According to David Jacoby, “twelve thousand snails of Murex brandaris yield no more than 1.4 g of pure dye, enough to color only the trim of a single garment.”

The Phoenicians also made an indigo dye which is referred to as royal blue. The Romans used the dye to color ceremonial robes. The color improved over time, unlike other dyes that fade.

The production of Murex purple ended with the sack of Constantinople in 1204. David Jacoby stated that the emperors and rulers could not finance the production of this dye.

Related: Tyre, Lebanon in 15 amazing photos