Archaeologists excavating in the Timna Valley near Eilat have discovered fabric that was dyed red and blue. This is the first time that such a colored clothing has been discovered from this ancient period. The Times of Israel provides a summary of a journal article and includes some photographs and a video.
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.”
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.
The concept of highly prized, skilled laborers flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which had supposed that slaves had largely manned the isolated copper mines.
Personally I think the speculation about the identification of the workers is unwarranted, given that we have essentially nothing to compare this with given the lack of preservation of perishable materials in the rest of Israel. And if the dating to the 10th century is correct, then this area was likely under the control of Israel, not Edom (2 Sam 8:14; 1 Kgs 9:26; 2 Chr 8:17). But one can certainly conclude that the workers here had access to a good shopping mall.
The official press release is posted here. The AFTAU has issued a press release here. Some high-res photos are available here.
HT: Joseph Lauer
“Solomon’s Pillars” is located on the left