Last month the Singer family, including five children, joined other volunteers at the Temple Sifting Project, a non-profit archaeological venture that sifts through debris from illegal excavation work from 1996-1999.
The Singers huge discovery was a tiny snail; or, more accurately, the shell of a murex trunculus.
According to a blog by the Temple Sifting Project, this unique kind of rock snails "have elongated shells with spines of fronds and brightly colored inner surfaces."
Well known in ancient history, "Aristotle used the word murex, and Vitruvius described the dye made from these shells, making this one of the oldest shell families still known today."
"What makes the murex trunculus so special is that it is connected with the ancient process of making tekhelet, the blue dye we know from the Bible that was used in priestly garments and the Israelites’ tzit tzit (fringes). This snail family was also used to make the purple dye known in the Bible as argaman.
"Making tekhelet or argaman requires special skills as well as a lot of snails. Dye can be collected by crushing the snails, or by laboriousy poking (milking) the snails and collecting the excretion. 12,000 snails might yield 1.4 grams of dye, which is only enough to color the trim of a single garment.
"Because of this, this Royal Blue or Royal Purple dye was very expensive, making it an almost exclusive sign of kingship and royalty. Interestingly, the color of this dye becomes more vibrant when left in the sun, and it is possible that different versions of the color can be made by making the dye in the sun or in the shade.
"So what was this murex shell doing on the Temple Mount? Any time we find a shell, we know that it was used by humans because Jerusalem is too far from the sea for sea creatures (and their shells) to dwell there.
"This means that shells were brought to Jerusalem for a purpose. We have [now] discovered over 20 of these murex trunculus shells in the sifting, and it leads us to wonder why.
"Is it possible that there was a workshop for dye production on the Temple Mount?"
To learn more about "the search for biblical blue," click here.
This is an edited version of the original article published by the Temple Sifting Project at https://templemount.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/arent-you-dying-to-know/