The Egg that Wouldn’t Crack

An intact hen’s egg has been excavated at Yavne that is estimated to be around 1,000 years old. The find is a sensation.

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: archaeology
The archaeologist Alla Nagorsky presents the 1000 year old egg Photo: Yossi Aloni/Flash90

The hen’s egg survived the millennium in the soft backwaters of an ancient cesspool. The excavation is part of a neighborhood development project initiated by the Israel Land Authority. The large-scale excavations led by Elie Haddad, Liat Nadav-Ziv and Jon Seligman have already uncovered an extensive and diverse industrial area from the Byzantine period.

The excavation site in Yavne

When archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority were digging in the cesspool from the Islamic period from about 1000 years ago, they were astonished when they across the intact hen’s egg. “Eggshell fragments are well known from earlier periods, for example in the City of David, in Caesarea and Apollonia, but so far hardly ever a whole chicken egg. Even on a global scale, this is an extremely rare find,” commented Lee Perry Gal of the Antiquities Authority, an expert on poultry in ancient times. “You can occasionally find antique ostrich eggs whose thick shells keeps them intact.”

“Nowadays some eggshells don’t even survive the supermarket box. Our 1000-year-old find is extremely surprising,” said excavation manager Alla Nagorsky happily. “Preservation is thanks to the conditions under which it lay for centuries, embedded in the soft organic waste that preserved it.”

Poultry farming came to Israel 2,300 years ag, during the Hellenistic and early Roman periods. During the Islamic period there is a marked decrease in the proportion of pork bones in the region. “You needed a protein supplier and found it in eggs and chicken,” Perry Gal explained. “Unfortunately, the egg had a tiny crack in the bottom through which most of the contents leaked. But a little bit of yolk remained. Let’s see what the DNA analysis shows.” Conservationist Ilan Naor repaired the crack in the organic laboratory of the Antiquities Authority.

In the same pit there were other exciting finds, including three bone dolls from the Islamic period. Such dolls were common as toys 1000 years ago.

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