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The Phoenicians' Purple Passion



The Phoenicians' Purple Passion
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8.84

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    aleph, alephbeth, blood-red, hieroglyphic-inscribed, prbly, prpl, reassemble, sntnc, sound-symbol, sound-symbols, tyrian, wine-colored, following, hieroglyphic, scribes, potion
     content words:    Eastern Europe, Dead Sea, Near Eastern


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The Phoenicians' Purple Passion
By Colleen Messina
  

1     The seafaring Phoenicians of the twelfth century B.C. had a passion for purple. Who would have thought that this purple passion would lead to the world's first true alphabet? The Phoenicians, who lived in what is now Syria, were a group of seamen and their families. They were a confederation of seafarers, not a nation of people bound together by a single culture or system of rule. However, they bravely sailed farther than any other ancient people to trade in wood, precious metals, and wine. They also sold their own special purple dye. In fact, they had a monopoly on purple!
 
2     This purple dye was so highly prized that the people of Greece came to associate the Phoenicians with the color purple. The word Phoenician is not a name that these seafarers called themselves. Instead, the word Phoenician is derived from the Greek language. It is a word that means the color purple or one who sells purple dye.
 
3     The Phoenicians discovered that a particular type of marine snail secreted a substance that, when treated properly, could be used as a vibrant purple dye. Cloth soaked in this substance and dried in the sun turned a rich purple color. Though beautiful, this purple dye was very expensive. Snails yielded only a drop or two of the substance used to make the dye, and there was more work to be done to process the dye after the snails were harvested. Because of its great expense, the color purple became a status symbol worn by royalty and the upper class.

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