Treasures from the Sea - Sea Silk and Shellfish Purple Dye in Antiquity

This interdisciplinary volume presents a collection of 17 papers which treat the current state of research on two marine resources used in ancient textile manufacture, shellfish purple dye and sea silk. Purple dye is extracted from the glands of the mollusks Hexaplex trunculus, Bolinus Brandaris and Stramonita Haemastoma which through a chemical reaction of photosynthesis produces hues ranging from dark red to bluish purple color. The importance of purple dye since ancient times as a status symbol, a sign of royal and religious power is well documented. Papers include the study of epigraphical and historical sources, practical experiments as well as, highlighting the presence of purple dye in the Mediterranean area in select archaeological data. Less well known is sea silk, a precious fiber derived from the tufts of the pen shell, Pinna nobilis, with which the mollusk anchors itself to the seabed. These tufts once cleaned and bleached take the aspect of golden thread. Only a handful of artisans on Sardinia still have the knowledge of how to work these fibers from the pen shell, a species protected by the EU Habitats Directive, the knowledge having been transmitted orally for generations. Papers include linguistic issues pertaining to terminology, archaeological investigation, the study of the physical and chemical properties of sea silk and the step-by-step practical working of sea silk fibers. The comprehensive multifaceted overview makes this book a valuable resource for anyone interested in ancient textiles, dyes and textile technology.