Archive for December 8th, 2019

Last one in the pit is a rotten (Roman) egg!

Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Archaeologists have discovered a perfectly intact Roman-era chicken egg in a pit at Berryfields in Buckinghamshire. As a matter of fact, archaeologists retrieved four whole eggs from that pit, but three of them were so fragile they broke on contact and graced the company with the unmistakable aroma of 2,000-year-old rotten egg. That makes the one survivor the only complete Roman egg known in Britain, and only the second one ever found anywhere. (The other was discovered in a child’s grave in Rome, clutched in the child’s skeletonized hand.)

Originally used to malt grain for brewing beer, the ancient pit was and still is waterlogged which has allowed for the preservation of organic remains. When its use for malting came to an end in the late 3rd century, people began to use it as a sort of impromptu wishing well, throwing a variety of objects into it for good luck. In addition to the eggs, the team discovered an extremely rare basket made of woven oak bands and willow rods, leather shoes and wooden tools.

Archaeologist Edward Biddulph said the extent and range of discoveries “was more than could be foreseen”. […]

Eggs were associated with fertility, rebirth and the Roman gods Mithras and Mercury.

Eggshell fragments have been found before, usually in Roman graves, but this is the “only complete Roman egg known in Britain” and “a genuinely unique discovery”, Mr Biddulph said.

He believes the eggs and bread basket could have been food offerings cast into the pit as part of a religious ceremony during a funeral procession.

Berryfields is in the area of the medieval town of Fleet Marston. Previous archaeological finds like dense pottery remains and hundreds of coins indicate there was a Romano-British settlement preceding Fleet Marston. A major Roman road linking  Verulamium (modern-day St Albans) and Corinium Dobunnorum (modern-day Cirencester) traversed the site, intersecting with several smaller roads. That prime crossroads location suggests the Roman settlement may have been a market town and/or government administrative center.

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