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1,700-year-old Intact Egg Found at Roman Site


Archaeologists in Britain have made a very unusual find, but one that is very significant. They have uncovered an unbroken egg that is roughly 1,700 years old and dates to the Roman Empire. It is the only complete egg from this era ever found in the British Isles. This unlikely discovery is important as it is providing insights into the beliefs and the ritualist practices of Romano-Britons.

The find was made by Oxford Archaeology which has been working on the Berryfields housing and community development site near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire for nine years. Here they found “a middle Iron Age settlement and the agricultural hinterland of the putative nucleated Roman settlement of Fleet Marston” according to Oxford Archaeology . This was situated on a major thoroughfare and was once an important trading, administrative, and agricultural center.

The Egg Was Discovered in a Roman Town

Down the years the archaeologists have uncovered many remarkable artifacts, dating from between the 1st century AD and the 4th century AD when the site was abandoned. Among the items found were coins, pottery, and metal items. The Daily Mail reports that they all throw light on “Roman Fleet Marston which had previously only been understood from incidental finds”.

Archaeologists were working in the area, which is very waterlogged, when they came across an unusual number of deposits in a pit. These were largely items that were organic in nature and they would typically have disintegrated over time. Among the items that were recovered were leather shoes , wooden tools , and a wicker basket, which may have once held bread.

The remains of an oak tree and wooden piles from a bridge were also unearthed from the waterlogged earth. Edward Biddulph, of Oxford Archaeology, stated that “the pit was still waterlogged, and this has preserved a remarkable collection of organic objects” according to the BBC.

The egg was discovered at the water-logged ancient Roman site. ( Oxford Archaeology )

Chicken Eggs From the Roman Empire

Among the organic items found were four eggs, that turned out to be chicken eggs . They were all found intact but as they were being moved, three of them broke, as they were so fragile. The broken eggs emitted a very powerful and unpleasant smell, this was not a surprise as they were centuries old, after all.

However, one of the eggs was extracted intact from the muddy ground, after some painstaking work. This was astonishing as only fragments of eggshells had been found, previously in Britain, mainly from Roman-era graves.

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Archaeologists endeavored to prevent breaking the egg as they removed it. ( Oxford Archaeology )

The archaeologist had found the only complete chicken egg from Roman Britain . To find any intact egg from the past is very rare but to find one from 1,700 years ago is astonishing. The BBC reports that Mr. Biddulph, said the discovery of the complete egg and other organic items “was more than could be foreseen”.

The Ancient Egg Was at the Site of a Roman-era Wishing Well

To understand why there were eggs and other items simply left in the ground we need to understand the area where they were found. It appears that the site was once a waterlogged pit, which was possibly used in a similar way to a wishing well .

People would toss objects into the pit for good luck. A Roman mirror and some pots had also been discovered in the location with the organic items.

It is also possible that the eggs and the basket, were offerings of food to the dead, possibly after a burial. This was very common in funerary customs in the classical era. Eggs were highly symbolic, for many ancient peoples and “In Roman society, eggs symbolized fertility and rebirth” according to the Daily Mail .

The remains of an oak and willow basket were also discovered at the same site as the ancient egg. ( Oxford Archaeology )

They were associated in particular with the Roman gods Mercury and Mithras, a deity of Persian origin. The eggs may have been placed in the pit to win the favor of one of these gods.

The excavation was financed by the construction company, Berryfields Consortium. The dig finished in 2016 and for the past three years, researchers have been carefully analyzing the numerous finds. A monograph that “describes the results of the fieldwork and analysis of an exceptional range of the artifactual and environmental evidence” reports Oxford Archaeology , was published this year.

Archaeologists at work in the waterlogged pit. ( Oxford Archaeology )


First intact Roman-era egg recovered

Oxford Archaeology’s excavation at Berryfields uncovered a wealth of evidence for Iron Age and Roman occupation at the site. They found a waterlogged pit containing what are thought to be votive deposits, including four Roman chicken eggs and a well-preserved basketry tray, as well as bridge timbers that may have carried Akeman Street over the River Thame (a tributary of the Thames).

The site is located along the path of Akeman Street, an important Roman road that now lies beneath the A41, and adjacent to the site of a Roman town in the parish of Fleet Marston. It was therefore assumed that some evidence of Roman activity would be found at Berryfields – but the site yielded a much wider range of archaeology than expected.

The research – which was funded by the Berryfields Consortium and carried out by Oxford Archaeology between 2007 and 2016, ahead of a development project in the area, and followed by three years of post-excavation analysis – revealed that the site had a long and complex history of occupation. Through a combination of specialist analyses and stratigraphic work a picture has emerged of Berryfields from the early Neolithic to the post-medieval period. The first intensive occupation of the site appears in the form of a Middle Iron Age settlement, consisting of several enclosures and roundhouses, with faunal evidence suggesting an economy based on horse-farming. There is no evidence that occupation continued into the Late Iron Age, so it is likely that the Roman settlement of Fleet Marston was newly established in connection with the construction of Akeman Street.

The Roman remains at Berryfields are significant for their contribution to our understanding of roadside activities in an area peripheral to the core of the settlement. It appears that various industries were set up in the area to supply travellers passing along Akeman Street, including malting and brewing, metalworking, and woodworking. Horses also appear to have been important, and it has been suggested that the settlement at Fleet Marston functioned as a mutatio (changing post), supplying horses to travellers. The remains of timbers, which may be part of a bridge over the Thame, reinforce the idea of this area as an important point in a network of travel routes across the country.

The most spectacular discoveries from the site were found in a waterlogged pit associated with the Roman occupation of the site. Among those finds were four chicken eggs, one of which was extracted intact, making it the only complete Roman-era egg known in Britain. Also in the pit were a basketry tray of woven oak bands and willow rods, which may have been used to carry bread, and other objects such as the remains of shoes and whole ceramic vessels. It has been suggested that the pit was the site of a votive offering, perhaps the result of a procession along Akeman Street that culminated in the placement of the eggs, a tray of bread, and other offerings into the pit as part of a funerary rite or other religious activity.

A book describing the full results of the project was recently published (and reviewed in CA 359) see www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/ berryfields.html for more information.

This news article appears in issue 360 of Current Archaeology. To find out more about subscribing to the magazine, click here.


'Only complete' 1,700-year-old Roman egg at Aylesbury dig

It was one of four hen's eggs found during a dig in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, although three broke releasing a "potent stench".

The "remarkable collection" of other organic finds included leather shoes, wooden tools and a "very rare" basket.

Archaeologist Edward Biddulph said the extent and range of discoveries "was more than could be foreseen".

Mr Biddulph, senior project manager with Oxford Archaeology South, said the "standout discoveries" were found in a pit.

From the late Third Century, people threw objects into it for good luck "much like a wishing well", he said.

Mr Biddulph said: "The pit was still waterlogged and this has preserved a remarkable collection of organic objects.

"Most extraordinary of all was a basketry tray, made of woven oak bands and willow rods, and four chickens' eggs."

The eggs were so fragile, three broke releasing a "potent stench of rotten egg", he said.

Eggs were associated with fertility, rebirth and the Roman gods Mithras and Mercury.

Eggshell fragments have been found before, usually in Roman graves, but this is the "only complete Roman egg known in Britain" and "a genuinely unique discovery", Mr Biddulph said.

He believes the eggs and bread basket could have been food offerings cast into the pit as part of a religious ceremony during a funeral procession.

Pre-Roman finds were also discovered, but the site reverted to agriculture after the late 4th Century.

The dig took place between 2007 and 2016, ahead of the development of the Berryfields site, a mix of housing and community facilities.

It borders the Roman road of Akeman Street, under the A41, next to the Roman town at Fleet Marston.


Stinky ‘intact’ chicken egg from ROMAN Britain found in ancient ‘wishing well’

ARCHAEOLOGISTS accidentally released the world's oldest stinkbombs when they discovered four Ancient Roman chicken eggs.

Three of the eggs broke open and released a "potent stench" – but one remains perfectly preserved after being lost for 1,700 years.

It's believed that the intact egg is the only complete sample from Roman Britain.

The chicken's egg was found in a pit possibly used as an early "wishing well".

Archaeologist Edward Biddulph described the egg as a "genuinely unique discovery", speaking to the BBC.

All four eggs were part of a "remarkable collection", including leather shoes, tools made from wood and a basket.

The discoveries were made in a pit at Berryfields, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Experts say that people threw objects into it for good luck "much like a wishing well" from the late 3rd century onwards.

"The pit was still waterlogged and this has preserved a remarkable collection of organic objects," Edward explained.

"Most extraordinary of all was a basketry tray, made of woven oak bands and willow rods, and four chickens' eggs."

Three of the eggs uncovered were so fragile that they broke, releasing a "potent stench of rotten egg".

But the fourth remained intact, and may be "the only complete Roman egg known in Britain".

The eggs and bread basket may have been food offerings thrown into the pit by Roman Britons.

Edward says this may have been part of a religious ceremony during a funeral procession.

The Romans in Britain

Here's everything you need to know.

The Roman Empire conquered vast swathes of Europe, West Asia and North Africa.

A Roman force of 40,000 led by Aulus Plautius landed in Kent and took the south east in 43 AD.

Key tribal leaders surrendered, and within three years Britain was declared part of the Roman Empire.

Londinium (London) was founded in 47 AD and became the country's capital. Networks of roads were built across the country.

Over time, the Britons began to adopt Roman customs, such as towns, animals, a new religion and ways of reading and counting. The Romans even gave us the word "Britain".

The Romans largely remained in the south of Britain, famously never managing to take Scotland from the country's violent Barbarian forces.

By 410 AD, the Empire was falling apart, and Roman rule ended in Britain when soldiers were recalled to Rome to protect other parts of it.

The Romans occupied Britain from 43 AD right through until the early 5th century.

Britons began to adopt Roman customs over time, and many of Britain's modern towns date back to Roman foundations.

The dig itself took place between 2007 and 2016, at a site bordering the Roman road of Akeman Street.

It's under the A41, near to the Roman town at Fleet Martson – since abandoned.


Actual Eggs from the Roman Empire Found Complete with Rotten Stench

Rotten eggs can smell pretty bad, imagine the stench of rotten eggs from the Roman Empire! Great Britain is a place rich in history, a place that lures archaeologists and scientists of all stripes who are anxious to delve into the country’s complex past. Teams of diggers never know for sure what they might uncover, which is, of course, part of the allure — archaeologists live as much for the hunt as they do for the prize.

So when archaeologists began digging in central England near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, they were thrilled with the discovery of four ancient, Roman eggs. Real eggs not jewelled eggs, not stone eggs, not carvings in the shape of eggs — actual eggs that are many thousands of years old. The dig began in 2007 and lasted until 2016 the team’s findings were recently published by Oxford Archaeology.

Those findings have caused quite a stir in archaeology circles, because the team was able to recover one of the eggs without damaging it. It is, therefore, the only Roman egg ever found in England, quite an accomplishment for the team.

The 2 eggs that cracked open emitted a “sulfurous aroma” during excavation. Here is the one remaining intact egg. (Oxford Archaeology)

The site is something of a watery pit, which is why the eggs were preserved so well, according to project manager Stuart Foreman. “There’s a very good reason it’s the first and only find in the U.K.” he explained to news website smithsonian. “In a pit that has been water logged for thousands of years you get things that would never survive in a dry environment. But it’s incredible we even got one out. They’re so fragile.”

Two of the eggs cracked and when that happened an extremely foul “sulfurous odour” immediately made its way into the nostrils of the finders. But even that couldn’t dampen the team’s thrill at finding the eggs so perfectly preserved, with one of them completely intact.

Fresco still life with eggs, birds and bronze dishes from Pompeii. Height: 74 cm. 50-79 BCE

The site, experts believe, was once a thriving beer brewing site, but its purpose morphed in about the 3rd century A.D., and it became a kind of wishing well. Archaeologist Edward Biddulph, who examined objects from the site for about three years, told the Independent, “passersby would have perhaps stopped to throw in offerings to make a wish for the gods of the underworld to fulfil.”

That, he suggested, explained the presence of such rare items as leather shoes, a wooden basket and even tools. He added, “The Romans associated eggs with rebirth and fertility, for obvious reasons. We have found chicken bones and broken egg shells in Roman graves before, but never a complete egg.”

Location of the find in Buckinghamshire, UK. Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right. CC by 3.0

To think that an egg, fragile even when brand new, could survive all these centuries is astonishing, And imaging that the team was able to retrieve it whole, without a single crack, is every bit as astonishing.

There is in existence one other complete egg it was found in the burial site of a child, whose hand was clutching it. Remarkably, archaeologists at that site, in Rome, were able to dislodge it without breaking it.

This egg in England, along with other artifacts found at the site, are being prepared for public display, and will go on exhibition at the Buckinghamshire County Museum soon. A date for the show has not been announced yet that depends on how quickly the team can ready the artifacts.

The site is eventually going to be the home of community buildings and housing, owned and operated by the Berryfields Consortium. The company agreed to allow the dig to proceed before any move is made toward modernizing and developing it.

And what terrific discoveries they made: most importantly, the egg. While to people not in the profession it may seem like a whole lot of fuss over a simple egg, archaeologists know better. They see our history in these living, organic objects, and read them like tarot cards to learn about the culture that surrounded them.

Learning about those cultures teaches us about where we are today, who shaped us and the events that occurred all those centuries ago. Understanding our past is the key to understanding the present, and perhaps even the key to understanding where we are headed.


Archaeologists accidentally break eggs that had been going off for 1,700 years

Archaeologists accidentally broke three Roman eggs that had been going off for 1,700 years.

The excavators unearthed a basket of four chickens’ eggs in a waterlogged pit during a dig in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

Three of the eggs cracked, releasing an overpowering “potent stench”, however the team managed to preserve the fourth one – making it the only complete Roman chicken’s egg found in Britain.

Experts from Oxford Archaeology think the waterlogged pit may have been used as a sort of Roman wishing well.

Stuart Foreman, dig project manager, said: “There’s a very good reason it’s the first and only find in the UK.”

Archaeologists unearth only complete chicken egg from Roman Britain

1 /8 Archaeologists unearth only complete chicken egg from Roman Britain

Archaeologists unearth only complete chicken egg from Roman Britain

Archaeologists unearth only complete chicken egg from Roman Britain

Archaeologists unearth only complete chicken egg from Roman Britain

Archaeologists unearth only complete chicken egg from Roman Britain

Archaeologists unearth only complete chicken egg from Roman Britain

Archaeologists unearth only complete chicken egg from Roman Britain

Archaeologists unearth only complete chicken egg from Roman Britain

Archaeologists unearth only complete chicken egg from Roman Britain

He added: “In a pit that has been waterlogged for thousands of years you get things that would never survive in a dry environment.

“But it’s incredible we even got one out. They were so fragile.”

Alongside the eggs were dozens of coins, shoes, wooden tools and a “very rare” basket.

Edward Biddulph, who spent three years analysing the find, added: “Passers-by would have perhaps stopped to throw in offerings to make a wish for the gods of the underworld to fulfil.

“The Romans associated eggs with rebirth and fertility, for obvious reasons.

“We have found chicken bones and broken eggshells in Roman graves in Britain before, but never a complete egg.”

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Experts said the pit was initially used for malting grain to brew beer from 2nd to 3rd century AD, before it started being used for offerings.

They found the egg at a dig site located next to the A41 in Aylesbury, which lies on an old Roman road which connected St Albans, Bicester and Cirencester.

The only other example of a completely intact Roman chicken egg was recovered from under the hand of a child buried in Rome, which was reported in 2010.

The British egg is now wrapped up in acid-free tissue in a plastic box at Oxford Archaeology’s headquarters.

It will go on show at the Buckinghamshire County Museum alongside the other finds.

The dig was part of the condition of planning permission for the Berryfields site, a mix of housing and community facilities.

It took place between 2007 and 2016, and analysis of the finds has been ongoing since then.

Additional reporting by SWNS


Archaeologists unearth 1,700-year-old Roman eggs and accidentally break them

Archaeologists accidentally broke three Roman eggs that had been going off for 1,700 years.

The excavators unearthed a basket of four chickens’ eggs in a waterlogged pit during a dig in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

Three of the eggs cracked, releasing an overpowering “potent stench”, however the team managed to preserve the fourth one – making it the only complete Roman chicken’s egg found in Britain.

Stuart Foreman, dig project manager, said: “In a pit that has been waterlogged for thousands of years you get things that would never survive in a dry environment.

“But it’s incredible we even got one out. They were so fragile.”

Alongside the eggs were dozens of coins, shoes, wooden tools and a “very rare” basket.

Edward Biddulph, who spent three years analysing the find, added: “Passers-by would have perhaps stopped to throw in offerings to make a wish for the gods of the underworld to fulfil.

“We have found chicken bones and broken eggshells in Roman graves in Britain before, but never a complete egg.”

Experts said the pit was initially used for malting grain to brew beer from 2nd to 3rd century AD, before it started being used for offerings.

They found the egg at a dig site located next to the A41 in Aylesbury, which lies on an old Roman road which connected St Albans, Bicester and Cirencester.

The only other example of a completely intact Roman chicken egg was recovered from under the hand of a child buried in Rome, which was reported in 2010.

The British egg is now wrapped up in acid-free tissue in a plastic box at Oxford Archaeology’s headquarters.

It will go on show at the Buckinghamshire County Museum alongside the other finds.

The dig was part of the condition of planning permission for the Berryfields site, a mix of housing and community facilities.

It took place between 2007 and 2016, and analysis of the finds has been ongoing since then.


Unfortunately, although great care was given, the other 3 fragile eggs broke, causing quite a stink at the worksite. Imagine a rotten egg that was laid by a chicken over 1700 years ago! 1700-Year-old Stink!

Initially, the pit was used in the malting and brewing process, but by the late 3rd century AD, the pit had been put to another use. A special place where the inhabitants of the Roman town and passers-by could throw in coins and other items for good luck or as offerings to the gods.

In the Roman period, eggs had all sorts of symbolic meanings. They were associated with the gods Mithras and Mercury and have connotations of fertility and rebirth.

Wherever eggshell has been found in Britain, they have usually been found in graves. The eggs at Berryfields almost certainly represent an offering of some kind. They may have been a religious offering or possibly had been placed in the pit as part of a funerary rite.


4 Ancient Honey


Honey is one of the few foodstuffs that, so far as we know, genuinely never spoils. Due to the high sugar content any bacteria or fungi that attempt to grow on it would have all their water sucked out by osmosis. Honey also contains gluconic acid and small amounts of hydrogen peroxide that make it a doubly inhospitable place for microorganisms to live. Honey is a food that preserves itself.

Perhaps fittingly it was often included in Ancient Egyptian burials. While the Egyptians were attempting to preserve their corpses for eternity they included a food that would last almost as long. Pots of honey over 3000 years old were discovered near the Great Pyramid and their contents would be perfectly edible today. While these are the oldest surviving samples of honey known there is evidence of people using honey and beeswax dating back well beyond this &ndash there may be even older honey waiting out there for us to try. [7]


Sardis dig yields enigmatic trove: ritual egg in a pot

A ritual deposit, found intact beneath a first century Roman house in Sardis. The deposit, found inside two bowls, includes a number of small implements, a unique coin and an egg. The hole in the egg was made in antiquity.

Photos: Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/Harvard University

By any measure, the ancient city of Sardis — home of the fabled King Croesus, a name synonymous with gold and vast wealth, and the city where coinage was invented — is an archaeological wonder.

The ruins of Sardis, in what is now Turkey, have been a rich source of knowledge about classical antiquity from the 7th century B.C., when the city was the capital of Lydia, through later Greek and Roman occupations.

Scholars digging at Sardis, the capital of ancient Lydia later occupied by Greeks and Romans. Sardis, in modern Turkey, was the fabled home of King Croesus, the richest man of his day, according to lore.

Now, however, Sardis has given up another treasure in the form of two enigmatic ritual deposits, which are proving more difficult to fathom than the coins for which the city was famous.

“The two deposits each consist of a small pot with a lid, a coin, a group of sharp metal implements and an egg, one of which is intact except for a hole carefully punched in it in antiquity,” explains Will Bruce, a classics graduate student a the University of Wisconsin–Madison who has been digging at Sardis for the past six years. Bruce made the finds last summer.

The dig at Sardis is overseen by Nicholas Cahill, a UW–Madison professor of art history. Cahill has directed field research at Sardis for decades. Both ritual deposits, says Cahill, date from the Roman era of Sardis, about A.D. 70 or 80.

An inverted bowl, covering another bowl with a ritual deposit, emerges from the earth. The bowls contained a ritual deposit of a coin, small metal implements and an egg.

Bruce and his team were excavating below the floor of a first century room, built over the ruins of an earlier building, which had probably been destroyed in a massive earthquake in A.D. 17.

Digging beneath the floor, Bruce and his colleagues first uncovered a thin-walled, nearly intact jug and, nearby, an assemblage of mostly unbroken pottery. “It looked like we were reaching a more intact deposit instead of fill,” says Bruce.

Within that assemblage, Bruce began to carefully uncover an inverted bowl, which turned out to be sitting on top of another bowl. The bowls, still filled with dirt, were carefully removed and immediately turned over to conservators who cleaned and dissembled them to find a set of small pointed instruments, a coin with a lion and portrait of Nero, and the intact egg.

Graduate student Will Bruce excavates a coin horde at Sardis, which was the home of King Croesus, a name synonymous in myth and history with gold and wealth.

“The ritual offerings were dug into pits in the floor, after the room was constructed,” says Cahill. “We know they were renovating the room periodically, because in another part of the space there was a dump of painted wall plaster buried under the floor, presumably in a renovation.”

“The meaning of these deposits is still quite open to interpretation,” notes Cahill, “but burying votive deposits below ground or in a wall was a fairly common practice,” perhaps as a ritual offering to protect the house. Roman literary sources suggest eggs were used in particular rituals.

For the archaeologists, part of the intrigue is that similar groups of bowls, needles, coins and eggs were discovered at Sardis more than 100 years ago when the temple of Artemis was excavated by Princeton University archaeologists. “It is an exact parallel to what they found in the early 20th century,” according to Cahill.

A gold coin found at Sardis. Another coin, bearing the likeness of Emporer Nero, was also found.

The coin was also unique. Sardis is famous as the place where coinage was invented in the Western world, first using electrum, an alloy of silver and gold, and later of pure gold and silver. Nearby sources of gold made ancient Lydia, and King Croesus, fabulously wealthy. While these Lydian coins are very rare, coins and coin hoards from later Greek and Roman occupiers of Sardis are routinely found.

But the coin found with the egg, says Cahill, seems to be special.

“The coin has a portrait of Nero on the front. The original reverse was hammered flat, and the image of a lion engraved in its place, which is very odd.” Expert numismatists have never seen anything like it. “The image of the lion is important because it is emblematic of the Lydian kings and of their native mother goddess Cybele,” Cahill says.

The discovery is unusual, Cahill notes, because finding ritualistic objects intact and in place after thousands of years is no everyday discovery, even in a rich archaeological context such as Sardis. “Ancient ritual was important to people. It is most unusual to find such fragile things so perfectly preserved.”


Watch the video: A Roman House and mosaic. perfectly preserved by littlecote. #roman #history #explore (January 2022).