A historical mystery has been cracked, with the reconstruction of chicken eggshells found in excavations at Jerusalem’s City of David. The shells, dating from the end of the First Temple era (c.1000-586 BCE), have been analyzed using 21st-century technology.
The eggs confirm the place of domesticated chickens on the dinner plates of Jerusalem’s upper class in biblical times, according to a study led Dr. Zohar Amar of Bar-Ilan University. The study analyzed several hundred eggshell fragments that archeologist Eliot Mizar found in refuse and ash during excavations he did about a decade ago.
Dr. Amar examined all the fragments using a unique new algorithm developed by Dr. Absalom Kurashiki of the Israel Antiquities Authority for the reconstruction of pottery vessels. He found enough large pieces to reconstruct one full egg.
The reconstruction shows that the height was about 50 mm, its diameter 40 mm, and its total volume 61 cc — similar to the size and volume of modern chicken eggs.
This finding has important implications in the field of Jewish law, which makes use of a measurement called “kibitz,” or egg-sized.
Dr. Amar noted that eggshells are rarely found in archaeological digs because they are so fragile. This discovery is especially significant because it’s the earliest evidence of chicken eggs found thus far in the Near East.
Until now, the only chicken-related archaeological finds from the biblical period in Jerusalem were a few bones and several seals of the royal house bearing the image of a fighting rooster.
Dr. Amar will share the finding of the study at a Bar-Ilan conference next month on agriculture and nature in ancient Israel.