What is it … made of?

© Erich Lessing

Thank you for participating in the discussion here and on our facebook page. Many of our readers correctly chose egg shell. See below for information about this ostrich shell container.

A. ivory
B. plaster
C. egg shell
D. porcelain
E. limestone

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.

The shells were fashioned into rhytons or water containers, usually with rope or metal harnesses (as in this case) or sometimes painted and hung as decorative objects. Similar containers hang in synagogues, churches and mosques and have been found at sites in Israel, Greece, Egypt, Cyprus and Africa. This unprovenanced example, which is dated to the Middle Bronze Age II (1750–1650 B.C.E.), was purchased from an antiquities dealer in Jerusalem; it is now in the collection of the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa.

Posted in Artifacts and the Bible.

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6 Responses

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  1. judith says

    not much to go on, how about a egg shell perfume container

  2. AJ says

    I’ll tell you wut, that shore is a perty tough little egg there, stayin strong and tough with them metal bands nailed into it and surviving thousands of years.

    Actually… hmmm. Plaster and limestone might not survive the elements that well over the ages. An eggshell would have had to be covered with a super-strong protective coating… so while it’s a pretty cool idea, I’m going to rule that out too. Porcelain and Ivory would both survive burial pressure and any water. The metal bands make me think ivory… but the texture doesn’t look like ivory. It looks like an egg shell. ;0) . I’ll go with porcelain.

  3. Janey says

    I’m thinking it is made of limestone and could be an ancient kettle.

  4. Lora says

    I’m gonna say eggshell…like ostrich or something like that.

  5. Jami says

    Precious oil

  6. Sharon says

    It’s an ostrich eggshell.


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