We all know that the usual Easter fun (not during this pandemic) is to look for Easter eggs. A tradition in which eggs are decorated (replaced by chocolate eggs in good time). But it turns out that this tradition is older than you think. How can you impress a high-ranking boss from the Bronze or Iron Age? Not just with jewelry or precious stones. It would also serve an egg. An artistically carved and richly decorated ostrich egg shell, to be precise. Such offerings were found in the tombs of the elites of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The corresponding time is approximately 2500 to 500 a. C. These excited archaeologists: eggs that were decorated thousands of years before Easter! Who made them and how did they get into the hands of the old nobility?
To solve the case, a team of archaeologists and museum curators got to work. He carefully examined the decorated egg shells in the British Museum collection. This includes five valuable eggs in excellent condition. The intact eggs were discovered at a tomb known as the Tomb of the Isis in Vulci, Italy. It was discovered in 1839 by Prince Lucien's brother Napoleon Bonaparte. The grave dates from around 600 a. C. It was full of other luxury items like gold jewelry and bronze tableware. The five ostrich eggs were painted and four engraved with repeating geometric patterns, animal motifs, chariots and soldiers.
Thousands of years of wonder
Other fragmented pieces found at about a dozen other tombs across the Mediterranean and Middle East were examined. The researchers used stable isotope analyzes. This technique combines chemical traces in bones and teeth with specific regions. They are looking for the origins of the eggs. Investigators already suspected that they were made by Assyrian and Phoenician artisans, and isotope analysis confirmed this. However, they discovered that the eggshells themselves came from different regions within the same grave. The indicates a more complex supply chain than previously thought Researchers report about antiquity today. A scanning electron microscope also showed that the engravers used an abundance of tools and techniques. This underlines the intense effort and skill required to create these oval decorations. Eggs that were decorated thousands of years before Easter still surprise those who see them. They have served their purpose for a long time.