Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

VIRTUAL - Royal Purple and Indigo: The Hidden Labor Behind Luxurious Dyes

October 20, 2021 @ 6:30 pm EDT Eastern Time

This is an online event.

AIA Society: Gainesville

Lecturer: Sarah E. Bond

Perhaps no other color in history has been so celebrated and so reviled as the color purple. Although it has come to be known as the shade of royalty, the workers who labored to make the mucus-based dye in the Roman Mediterranean were often viewed as lowly and as smelly as the mollusks the harvested. During the later Roman empire, these workers were even subject to state control within a caste-like system that made their jobs hereditary. If we look to the history of another purplish hue, indigo, we see a similar regulation of the labor force — and the very bodies — of those enslaved workers used to produce it in the Antebellum South. From diamonds to coal to Tyrian purple to indigo, the workers who create luxury goods often do not enjoy the same status as their products. This lecture looks at the archaeological and literary evidence for these often-invisible workers in order to reconstruct the lives of ancient dye workers, while also reminding us of the enslaved labor that continues to create the products we use or the buildings we admire even today.



Sarah E. Bond, “The Hidden Labor Behind the Luxurious Colors of Purple and Indigo” Hyperallergic (October 24, 2017).

Andrea Feeser, Red, White, and Black Make Blue: Indigo in the Fabric of Colonial South Carolina Life. (University of Georgia Press, 2013).

Amalie Skovmøller, Facing the Colours of Roman Portraiture: Exploring the Materiality of Ancient Polychrome Forms (De Gruyter, 2020).

Zoom ID: 745 130 9473

Join via Zoom
When placing events on your calendar using these buttons, please check that time zone displays correctly.


October 20, 2021
6:30 pm EDT
Event Categories:
, ,


Eleanor Laughlin


In-person or Virtual Event
Subscribe to the AIA e-Update

support Us

The AIA is North America's largest and oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to archaeology. The Institute advances awareness, education, fieldwork, preservation, publication, and research of archaeological sites and cultural heritage throughout the world. Your contribution makes a difference.