D. Imperfect Application of the Results Obtained by Lacaze-Duthiers to the Study of Tekhelet and Argaman

Lacaze-Duthiers omitted all mention of Tekhelet and Argaman in his epoch making Memoire sur la pourpre (“Memory on the Purple”).1 Though his researches had enabled him to distinguish the purple molluscs according to variation in the final tone of their pigment, he nevertheless made no direct attempt at assigning the principal purple colours occurring in Pliny let alone Semitic literature to corresponding species of Murices and Purpurae. Writers on Tekhelet and Argaman were thus hardly placed in a position of readily suggesting the probable identifications of Tekhelet and Argaman species respectively upon the authority of Lacaze-Duthiers’ results. The articles on the subject in the best Bibli-cal lexicons, though posterior to the publication of the Memoire sur la Pourpre (“Memory on the Purple”), limit themselves to informing the reader that the ancients obtained the purple dye from Murex brandaris, Murex trunculus and Purpura haemastoma, without in the least attempting to indicate which furnished Tekhelet and which Argaman. Even “Article on Colours in the Bible” from the able pen of Franz Delitzsch forms no exception in this respect.2 Bizio, however, had he been consulted, might have pointed out the way. The Italian porphyrologist repeatedly expresses the view that Murex trunculus was the species anciently employed in the dyeing of the Purpura amethystina and Murex brandaris in that of the Purpura tyria.

Pietschmann in his History of the Phoenicians made the nearest approach towards an attempted identification of the Argaman species: 


“The juice of the Purpura haemastoma, the buccinum mussel as Pliny calls it, gives a very red colour; he supplied the lighter purple of Taranto, which argaman of the islands of Elisha mentions Ezekiel as a trade item of Tire.” “Eine sehr ins Rothe spielende Farbe giebt der Saft der Purpura haemastoma, der Buccinummuschel wie sie Plinius nennt; er lieferte den helleren Purpur von Tarent, das Argaman der Inseln Elischa das Ezechiel als Handelsartikel von Tyros erwähnt.”3 


The reference to Ezekiel, as Pietschmann explains in a foot-note, is based upon the identification of Elischa with Halaesa on the north coast of Sicily. Purpura haemastoma, however, furnishes sombre tones rather than ‘helleren Purpur‘ (‘lighter purple’).”4 For Tekhelet Pietschmann offers no suggestion.



  1. Lacaze-Duthiers, Memoire, Ch. 1, passim.
  2. Herzog, Johann, Jakob, Realencyclopädie, Gotha (1860), v.VIII, “Farben.”
  3. Pietschmann, ibid., p. 242.
  4. As the amethyst purple colour was really the result of a mixture in certain proportions of the pigments of both “Purpura” (or pelagia) and buccinum, and the Purpura Tyria owed its tone to a double dyeing with the secretions of species of both these genera, Bizio has not articulated his view with the necessary distinctness at least in as far as it applies to the data supplied by Pliny.