Museum’s gift to humanity

Glass for all

Legend has it that one day, a Phoenician ship, with a cargo of rock salt blocks, landed next to the mouth of the river Numan in modern day Palestine. The crew decided to spend the night on the banks of the river and built a stove with the rock salt blocks to prepare dinner. When fire was lit, the crew members were astonished to see a transparent liquid coming out of the stove. They understood later that the liquid was the result of the fusion of salt and sea sand due to the high heat, and so discovered glass.

Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt knew glass, but because of the high cost of glass production, it was a sign of wealth and a luxury item for kings and aristocrats. However, around 1000 BC, Phoenician glass manufacturers (probably from Sidon), discovered a new technique that will revolutionize the glass production industry: glass blowing. Glass was no more a luxury item, demands grew high and so did production. Glass was used to produce pieces to hood, old foils and perfumes.

Writing for All

Writing was invented around 3500 BC in Uruk in southern Iraq, and in Egypt around 3200 BC. Scribes from both civilizations monopolized writing since both systems where extremely difficult. Around the year 1100 BC., Phoenician scribes (perhaps from Jbeil in particular) worked on simplifying the writing system departing from a principle that a number of symbols representing sounds make up a language. This led to the invention of the first phonetic alphabet in human history: the Phoenician alphabet. The selection of 22 characters, each representing a voice, not an idea or a word was a genius idea and Phoenician trade spread it all over the ancient word and gave birth to all the modern alphabets used in our days.

A legend explains how the alphabet was brought to Ancient Greece. It tells the story of the beautiful princess Europe, daughter of Agenor, king of Tyr. Zeus, the Greek king of the gods, was said to have seen the Phoenician princess in Tyr, where she walked beside the sea, he immediately fell in love with her. He headed to the shores of Tyr taking the shape of a white bull with horns like a crescent moon and begun jumping around her. The Princess sat on the bulls back as he immediately road out to the sea towards the island of Crete where she gave birth to the fruit of their love, the Minautor.
Soon after, her brother Cadmus took to the see searching for her. He stopped looking for her when the oracle of Delphi told him about his sister and Zeus. Later, he stayed in Greece and founded the city of Thebes and became a loved and good king who teacher his people to write using the letters of the Phoenician alphabet.

Purple for kings

In Antiquity, purple was the color of kings. Roman emperors were dressed in purple and Byzantine crown prince was called “Porphyrogenetos”, a Greek word that means “born in purple”.

Legend says that Melkart, the God of Tyr, was walking with his dog on the shores of the city. His dog accidently bit a murex shell and blood stained his teeth. When the exquisite Nymph Tyros saw the dark color on the dog’s teeth, she requested that Melqart gave her a dress of the same color. Melqart asked the skilled artisans of Tyr to reproduce the color from the blood of the murex shell. They succeeded and offered the nymph a beautiful purple dress.

Method of preparation: In the spring, the murex shells are collected and placed to boil in huge pots with lime and ashes for days. Then the fabric (Wool, linen, silk) is soaked in the mixture for days. The dyed fabrics are then extracted from the mixture; their color tends to be blue. When exposed to oxygen, the color changes from blue to purple. Phoenician artisans monopolized this industry for centuries.