A team of archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has found an unbroken chicken egg in an Islamic-period cesspit at the archaeological site of Yavne on Israel’s southern Mediterranean coast.
The 1,000-year-old chicken egg found at the archaeological site of Yavne in Israel. Image credit: Dafna Gazit, Yoli Schwartz & Gilad Stern, Israel Antiquities Authority.
Poultry farming was introduced to Israel approximately 2,300 years ago, during the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods.
“Eggshell fragments are known from earlier periods, for example in the City of David and at Caesarea and Apollonia, but due to the eggs’ fragile shells, hardly any whole chicken eggs have been preserved,” said IAA archaeologist Dr. Lee Perry Gal.
“Even at the global level, this is an extremely rare find.”
“In archaeological digs, we occasionally find ancient ostrich eggs, whose thicker shells preserve them intact.”
“Even today, eggs rarely survive for long in supermarket cartons,” added IAA archaeologist Dr. Alla Nagorsky.
“It’s amazing to think this is a 1,000-year-old find!”
“The egg’s unique preservation is evidently due to the conditions in which it lay for centuries, nestled in a cesspit containing soft human waste that preserved it.”
IAA archaeologist Dr. Alla Nagorsky with the 1,000-year-old chicken egg. Image credit: Dafna Gazit, Yoli Schwartz & Gilad Stern, Israel Antiquities Authority.
During the Islamic period (from the 7th century CE), there is a marked decrease in the percentage of pig bones at archaeological sites in the region.
“Families needed a ready protein substitute that does not require cooling and preservation, and they found it in eggs and chicken meat,” Dr. Gal said.
“Unfortunately, the egg had a small crack in the bottom so most of the contents had leaked out of it. Only some of the yolk remained, which was preserved for future DNA analysis.”
“How did the egg end up in the cesspit? We will never know,” the archaeologists said.
“Interestingly, other exciting finds were retrieved from the same pit as the egg, including three typical Islamic-period bone dolls used as playthings some 1,000 years ago.”
This article is based on text provided by the Israel Antiquities Authority.