Cannibalism in muricid snails as a possible explanation for archaeological findings

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Shells of the rock murex, Trunculariopsis trunculus (Linné, 1758), used in the purple dye industry in ancient maritime civilizations, have been found in archaeological sites along the coasts of Israel. Some of these shells bear drilled holes. Biological study revealed that such holes were probably drilled by cannibalistic conspecifics, but only under artificial conditions. This indicates that the ancients may have maintained these snails alive in captivity until they accumulated a sufficient quantity of fresh snails for their dye industry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-468
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1986

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This work was supported, in part, by a grant from the Israeli National Academy of Sciences to E. Spanier and E. Linder and a research grant from Dr S. M. Edelstein, New Jersey. We thank Prof. M. Dothan from the University of Haifa and Prof. R. J. Bull from Drew University, New Jersey, for enabling us to examine material found m their digs: N. Karmon for her assistance in analysing the archaeological findings; S. Breitstein and Y. Tur-Caspa for their assistance in the diving operations.


  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • biology
  • muricid snails
  • purple dye
  • trunculariopsis trunculus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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