Scientists discover 1,000-year-old chicken egg preserved in human poo

A 1,000-year-old chicken preserved in human poo has been discovered.

The relic, which dates back to the Byzantine era, was found surrounded by excrement in an ancient cesspit.

It was unearthed still perfectly intact in an industrial site Israeli coastal city Yavne – about 37 miles west of capital Jerusalem.

The complete egg is about six centimeters long, with just a few minor cracks in the shell.

Researchers who examined the cesspit also discovered three Islamic bone dolls – known as Coptic dolls – that were used as kids' toys believed to be from around the same time the egg was laid.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced the unusual find yesterday, Wednesday.

"Eggshell fragments are known from earlier periods, for example in the City of David and at Caesarea and Apollonia," Lee Perry Gal, the IAA's leading expert on poultry in the ancient world, said.

"But due to the eggs' fragile shells, hardly any whole chicken eggs have been preserved."

Unfortunately, however, the shell cracked in the IAA's lab during further analysis.

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Alla Nagorsky, an archaeologist with the IAA, added: "Even today, eggs rarely survive for long in supermarket cartons. It's amazing to think this is a 1,000-year-old find!"

Chicken farming in Israel began about 2,300 years ago, during the Greek Hellenistic and early Roman times.

"There's not much left. There was barely some yolk left inside, but it's more or less empty," Perry Gal told the Forward.

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Scientists now hope to analyse the DNA inside the egg.

"We're going to take the remains and extract some collagen to try to do DNA sequences," Gal said.

During the Islamic period from the 7th century, chicken became a key food source because eating pork from pigs was forbidden.

"Families needed a ready protein substitute that does not require cooling and preservation, and they found it in eggs and chicken meat," said Gal.

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Archeologists admitted they were baffled as to how or why the egg ended up in the cesspit.

Coptic dolls first appeared in Palestine and Egypt during the Arab conquest.

For the last few months, several archaeological digs have been taking place across Yavne before a new housing estate is built on the site.

In April, a 1,600-year-old mosaic was found. It looks set to be put on public display in the plaza of the city's cultural centre.

"At first, we did not realise that the floor is multicoloured," Dr Eli Haddad and Dr Hagit Torgë, who are heading up the digs, said in a joint statement.

"We assumed that it was simple white mosaic paving belonging of yet another industrial installation. But black patches dotted around the mosaic suggested that it was more than one colour and prompted us to remove the whitish patina that had coated it for years.

"The conservation director went to work cleaning the mosaic with a special acid, and to our astonishment, a colourful mosaic carpet was revealed, ornamented with geometric motifs."

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