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A Roman egg discovered in Aylesbury has retained its contents for over 1,700 years.

A Roman egg discovered in Aylesbury has retained its contents for over 1,700 years.

The discovery of 1,700-year-old speckled chicken eggs in a Roman pit during an excavation in Buckinghamshire was a remarkable find.

However, to the surprise of archaeologists and naturalists, a scan has discovered that one of the undamaged eggs still contains liquid – believed to be a combination of yolk and albumen – which could potentially reveal information about the ancient bird that laid it almost 2000 years ago.

In 2010, during the exploration of a site before a major development, four eggs known as the “Aylesbury egg” were discovered. They were accompanied by a woven basket, pottery vessels, leather shoes, and animal bone.

Although the experts attempted to extract them with caution, three of them broke, emitting a strong and distinctive sulfuric odor, but one was successfully preserved in its entirety.

According to Edward Biddulph, the lead project manager at Oxford Archaeology, they were thrilled to discover what is believed to be the sole complete egg from that time period in Britain. He noted, “While we do come across shell fragments frequently, finding an intact egg is quite rare.”

Last year, there were talks about how to exhibit the egg. Dana Goodburn-Brown, an expert in archaeological conservation and materials science, proposed scanning it to aid in determining the most effective preservation method.

According to Biddulph, the egg was surprisingly extraordinary. It retained its liquid form, including the yolk and albumen, although they seemed to have combined.

It is remarkable that the egg has remained intact over the years, as we might have anticipated it to deteriorate. It may even hold the title of being the oldest of its kind in existence.

According to Biddulph, the egg was intentionally put in a hole that was once used as a well for making malt and brewing. This location was situated near a Roman road and was likely a wet area. It is possible that the eggs were left there as an offering. The basket that was discovered could have potentially held bread.

The egg was transported to the Natural History Museum in London. Biddulph expressed feeling a bit intimidated while travelling on the subway and walking around the city with the unique and delicate egg under his responsibility.

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The museum’s senior curator of birds’ eggs and nests, Douglas Russell, was asked for advice on preserving the egg and safely removing its contents without damaging it.

According to Russell, there are older eggs containing mummified remains, but it is believed that this egg is the oldest one that was unintentionally preserved. The contents can be extracted through a small hole in the egg to learn more about the bird that laid it.

Goodburn-Brown stated, “The discovery and preservation of the egg is an incredibly fascinating and difficult task in archaeology. As the temporary caretaker and researcher of this Roman egg, it stands out as one of the most significant moments in my 40-year career.”

Source: theguardian.com