Excavations in Yavne Recover Intact Chicken Egg from 1,000 Years Ago

An egg believed to be 1,000 years old, found at an excavation site in Yavne. (Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority)


While excavating an ancient site in Yavne that archeologists have dated to about 1,000 years ago, they were astonished to find an unbroken chicken’s egg.

“Eggshell fragments are known from earlier periods, for example in the City of David and at Caesarea and Apollonia, but due to the eggs’ fragile shells, hardly any whole chicken eggs have been preserved. Even at the global level, this is an extremely rare find,” says Dr. Lee Perry Gal of the Israel Antiquities Authority and a leading expert on poultry in the ancient world. “In archaeological digs, we occasionally find ancient ostrich eggs, whose thicker shells preserve them intact.”

“Even today, eggs rarely survive for long in supermarket cartons. It’s amazing to think this is a 1,000-year-old find!” says archaeologist Alla Nagorsky, excavation director of the dig.

“The egg’s unique preservation is evidently due to the conditions in which it lay for centuries, nestled in a cesspit containing soft human waste that preserved it.”

“Unfortunately, the egg had a small crack in the bottom so most of the contents had leaked out of it. Only some of the yolk remained, which was preserved for future DNA analysis,” said Dr. Gal.

Despite the extreme caution with which the egg was removed, under the experienced supervision of a conservationist, the shell of the egg – preserved whole by the unusual anaerobic conditions – was cracked. In the IAA’s organics laboratory, conservationist Ilan Naor restored the egg to the state in which it was found.