A Roman chicken has managed to offend the nostrils of a team of archaeologists in Buckinghamshire, England, after the eggs it laid 1,700 years ago cracked. Having spent much of ancient history rotting, the out-of-date eggs released what has been described as a “potent stench”, although on the plus side, they do make for fascinating relics.
Researchers carried out excavations at the site at Berryfields between 2007 and 2016, with the most interesting discoveries being found in a pit that had been dug by the side of a Roman road. Because the hole breached the water-table, much of it was waterlogged, and many of its submerged contents have remained remarkably well preserved.
Dig project manager Stuart Foreman explained that “in a pit that has been waterlogged for thousands of years you get things that would never survive in a dry environment,” The Independent reports.
In addition to objects such as leather shoes and a wooden basket, the team also discovered four chicken eggs. Unfortunately, three of the extremely fragile eggs broke while being retrieved from the pit, releasing a stink that had spent the past 1,700 years brewing.
According to Oxford Archaeology, who conducted the dig, the pit was originally used for malting grain and brewing beer, but by the end of the third century had become something of a wishing well, where locals would throw offerings to the gods.
These days, only an idiot would lob a bunch of eggs into a wishing well, but in Roman times eggs were imbued with all sorts of symbolic meanings, being associated with the gods Mithras and Mercury while also carrying connotations of rebirth and fertility.
Because of this, eggshells have previously been found in Roman graves, and its likely that the four eggs found at Berryfields were intended as some sort of gift for the gods.
Luckily, one of the eggs was retrieved fully intact and will soon go on display at the Buckinghamshire County Museum.