Sunday, February 16, 2020

Which Came First?

The latest issue of Current Archeology has an article about a really unusual archaeological food find in Buckhamshire, England--four eggs dating to Roman times, one of which is complete.  The article, complete with a picture of the find site and a good picture of the egg itself, can be read here.  (Here's a big "thank you" to Katrin Kania of a stitch in time, who included a pointer to the article in her latest post.)

The article characterizes the eggs as "chicken" eggs, but as Katrin points out in her post, it does not indicate that any DNA analysis of the find was performed. However, I just took a "large" sized chicken egg out of my refrigerator; it measures about 4 cm across the widest part and about 5 cm long.  That is roughly the size of one of my chicken eggs.   That suggests that any experiments with Roman recipes for eggs will make approximately the same amount of food as would have been available in Roman times--good to know!

The Current Archaeology article also notes that a book was recently published, summarizing the study of all the finds on the Berryfield site (where the eggs were found).  That book is being sold by Oxbow Books; a link to the page where you can purchase the book from them may be found here; and a review of the book (which also appeared in Current Archaeology) can be read here.  The book's price is GBP 20, which is not outrageous, though I unfortunately have other things I need to buy that have to take priority for me.

Berryfields was the site of a Roman-era settlement.  The eggs were found in a water-logged pit, along with a tray made of "woven oak bands and willow rods."  The Current Archaeology article reports the suggestion that the eggs might have been part 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 [where the eggs were found] as part of a funerary rite or other religious activity."  Though archaeologists have been known to ascribe to religion archaeological finds that do not have another obvious explanation, it is hard to imagine why chicken eggs would otherwise be placed upon a tray and buried in a pit.

Hopefully, other Roman finds will be discovered that will shed further light on these interesting eggs.


  1. Assuming they're correctly identified as chicken eggs it's interesting that they are much the same size as modern ones. So many domestic animals have been bred to be larger, produce more meat, etc.