Fried or scrambled? Prehistoric ostrich eggs for cooking found in Israel

Eight ostrich eggs believed to more than 4,000 years old have been found next to an ancient fire pit in Israel.

A prehistoric camp site used by desert nomads was discovered underneath the Nitzana sand-dunes of the Negev region, the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

Excavation director Lauren Davis said archaeologists also unearthed stone tools and pottery shards, but that the eggs were “the truly special find”.

Wild ostriches were common in the area until the 19th Century.

The large flightless birds’ eggs have been found in archaeological sites from several periods.

They were used not only as a source of food – one ostrich egg has the same nutritional value as about 25 chicken eggs – but also as funerary vessels, luxury items decorated with engravings or paintings, and as water carriers.

“It is interesting, that whilst ostrich eggs are not uncommon in excavations, the bones of the large bird are not found,” said Amir Gorzalczany of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“This may indicate that in the ancient world, people avoided tackling the ostrich and were content with collecting their eggs.”

The proximity of the eggs to the fire pit discovered in the Beer Milka area indicated that they were intentionally collected and used as food.

The eggs were crushed but well preserved because the camp site was covered over by sand for so long and also because of the dry climate of the area.

“These camp sites were quickly covered over by the dunes and were re-exposed with the sand movement over hundreds and thousands of years,” Lauren Davis said.

“This fact explains the exceptional preservation of the eggs, allowing us a glimpse into the lives of the nomads who roamed the desert in ancient times.”


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