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purple dye murex

purple dye murex

C017/1289

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Credit

PHOTOSTOCK-ISRAEL / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PHOTOSTOCK-ISRAEL / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Israel, a sea snail. Murex was at one time greatly valued as the source for purple dye. It discharges a purple ink from the hypobranchial gland in the mantle cavity as a smoke screen, from behind which it can flee. The Phoenicians, centred on Tyre, gathered the snails, crushed & boiled them with salt for several days to extract the ink. The liquid was allowed to cool & over a period of time the colour changed for yellow to green to blue & then a rich purple. The extraction of the ink & the manufacture of purple cloth made Tyre a household word in the past.

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