A famous riddle compares an egg to a treasure, and asks: A chest without hinges, key, or lid, but golden treasure hidden inside. what am I?
For archaeologists in Israel eight prehistoric times Ostrich eggs – believed to be between 4,000 and 7,500 years old – proved as valuable as treasure when it was discovered near an ancient fire pit in the Negev, a desert region in the south of the country.
On Thursday, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced their discovery during an archaeological excavation in the agricultural fields of Bir Milka.
the eggThe proximity to the fire pit indicates that they were collected on purpose by the prehistoric desert nomads who used the camp site, according to an IAA press release, though additional lab analysis will provide more information about their uses and ages.
“We found a camping site spanning about 200 square meters (2,153 square feet) that was used by desert nomads since prehistoric times,” IAA director of excavation Lorraine Davis said in the release.
“At the site we found burnt stones, stone tools and flints, as well as pottery sherds, but the really special discovery is this group of ostrich eggs. Although the Bedouins did not build permanent buildings at this site, the discoveries allow us to feel their presence in the desert.”
Davis added that the campsites were covered in sand dunes, which kept the eggs in exceptionally good condition.
The antiquities authority, which told CNN on Thursday that the site was excavated last week, said ostriches were widespread in the area until they became extinct in the wild during the 19th century.
Their eggs were ornately decorated and were a prized item among the elite circles of Mediterranean civilizations during the Bronze Age and Iron Age.
In addition to being used as decorative items, ostrich eggs were also used in funerals, water canteens and as a food source.
“We find ostrich eggs in archaeological sites in funerary contexts, and as luxury items and water canteens. And, of course, they were used as a food source: one ostrich egg has the nutritional value of about 25 regular chicken eggs,” Amir Gurzalchany, senior research archaeologist from the IAA, said in the release.
“Interestingly, while ostrich eggs are not uncommon in fossils, no large bird bones have been found. This may indicate that in the ancient world, people avoided handling ostriches and were content to collect their eggs.”
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