Biblical Archaeology Review 39:1, January/February 2013

Strata: What Is It...Made Of?

A. ivory

B. plaster

C. egg shell

D. porcelain

E. limestone

Answer: (C) egg shell

The hard and impervious ostrich egg shell used to make this container measures 6.7 inches high, 13.7 inches in circumference and .06 inches thick.1 An opening cut into the top of the egg allowed the contents to be emptied before it was fitted with a perfectly shaped circular bronze neck and cylindrical mouth. Bronze straps and a curved handle were also attached by a skilled artisan to protect the container and make it easier to carry (or possibly to hang).

Ostriches were common in the deserts of Israel, Syria, Saudi Arabia and North Africa in antiquity and were sought after especially for their feathers and for their eggs, which were valued for their size, shape and resemblance to ivory. Ostrich eggs are well attested in burials and tombs in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt as far back as the fourth millennium B.C.E. and became popular trade items throughout the Mediterranean world.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.