University of Tennessee
Purpurae Florem: Assessing the Role of Purple Dye Manufacture in the Emergence of a Political Elite at Mitrou
Evidence suggests that purple dye was produced on the islet of Mitrou, a Bronze Age and Early Iron Age site in East Lokris. The goal of this study is to determine the chronological and spatial patterning of crushed Murex shells in order to better understand the emergence of dye manufacture. The research hypothesis is that Murex dye production was related to the rise of a visible political elite at Mitrou beginning in the Late Helladic I phase, and that the scale of production was large enough to have exceeded the needs of the household, thus providing a cash crop for this elite to obtain goods such as copper and tin from elsewhere. Multi-layered statistical analyses were employed to test this two-pronged hypothesis. The first hypothesis that Murex dye production was related to the rise of the elite at Mitrou was confirmed by a series of chi-squared analyses. Based on site-wide estimates of the original Murex population, the second hypothesis that dye production exceeded domestic scale cannot be rejected, especially if dye was used to color thread rather than large pieces of fabric as is often assumed.
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