4,000-year-old ostrich eggs discovered in Israeli Negev

Ancient ostrich eggs, likely collected by nomads and hidden in the desert, unearthed during an excavation in southern Israel.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

Eight ostrich eggs more than 4,000 years old were discovered during an archaeological dig in the southern Negev, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced.

The eggs were found near an ancient fire pit in the Nitsana sands, near the Egyptian border.

Unfortunately, a bit too much time has elapsed in order for them to be able to hatch.

The dig is part of a preparation to use the land adjacent to the Moshav Beer Milka for agricultural purposes.

“We found a parking site, which extends over about 200 meters, which was used by desert nomads since prehistoric times,” said Lauren Davis, the director of the excavation on behalf of the Antiquities Authority.

“At the site we discovered burnt stones, flint and stone tools, and fragments of pottery, but the truly special find is an assemblage of ostrich eggs. Although the nomads did not build permanent structures, this site certainly makes it possible to feel their presence in the desert. Sites of this type are quickly covered by dunes, and are exposed with the movement of the sands over the course of hundreds and thousands of years. This fact allowed for the exceptional preservation of the eggs, which are usually not preserved,” she said.

According to Davis, the positioning of the eggs appeared to be deliberate.

“The proximity of the eggs we uncovered here to the focus of a fire, and the way they were found on the site – in close proximity to each other, indicates that this is not a natural dispersion, but a deliberate collection by people,” Davis said.

“One of the eggs was found right inside the center of the fire, a fact that strengthens the argument that it was a gathering for food. As far as we know, this is the first time in archaeology that we have signs of cooking an egg in this period. The level of preservation of the site, which is almost on the surface, is rare, and the state of preservation of the eggs, even though they are broken, are also very good,” she explained.

According to the Antiquities Authority’s Dr. Amir Gorzalzani, early nomads placed great value in ostrich eggs. “We find ostrich eggs in archaeological sites related to burials and worship, and also as luxury vessels and as a kind of water for drinking liquids. Of course, they were also used as a source of food: one ostrich egg is equivalent in nutritional value to about 25 normal chicken eggs.”

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The findings will go from the excavation straight to the analytical laboratories at the National Archaeological Museum of Israel, where they will undergo preservation and further research.