Decorating eggs is not an Easter ritual as many of us may imagine. It didn’t start with the basket of eggs colored by Christ’s blood. It is a five-millennia-old ritual that was not yet understood. A new study made by an international team of archaeologists and led by experts from the universities of Bristol and Durham are trying to crack that mystery of some decorated ancient ostrich eggs.
The British Museum in London holds a collection of decorated ostrich eggs dating back in the bronze and iron ages. They were the subjects of the new study and the findings were in the magazine Antiquity. It seems that elite society from the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Middle East had a reason for which they sculpted and colored the ostrich eggs with geometric or floral designs.
The mystery of decorated ancient ostrich eggs
Ivory and some other precious coats were used for the egg engravement, painting, and embellishment. Some of the techniques they used were revealed with the help of microscopic scanning but not all of them. Researchers are intrigued by the complexity of the mysterious techniques and they intend to carry on with the study on the more than two dozen ancient ostrich eggs the collection has.
One of the most intriguing questions is how did those eggs end up being possessed by people living in places where ostrich was not indigenous, places such as Spain, Italy, or Greece. Also, the isotope from the eggs that were found in places where ostrich was indigenous confirms that the eggs didn’t come from these regions. It seems that they were somehow imported from distant regions.
“This was a really unexpected discovery – that just because you could source [ancient ostrich eggs] locally doesn’t mean you necessarily did. This opened up new questions such as: in antiquity, was there some prestige value in an egg that was laid in a different climactic zone?” the project leader, Dr. Tamar Hodos of Bristol University said.