A 1700-year-old Roman egg unearthed in Buckinghamshire

Eggstremely rare! Archaeologists dig up Britain’s ‘only complete Roman egg’ in Aylesbury and believe it was used in fertility rites 1,700 years ago

  • Archaeologists unearthed an ‘extraordinary’ collection of items during the dig
  • The items were found during a survey of the Berryfields housing development
  • They initially found four ‘fragile’ eggs but three broke releasing a ‘potent stench’ 
  • Researchers say the finds held shed new light on Roman-era Fleet Marston 

‘Extraordinary items’ including a complete 1,700 year old Roman egg that was ‘likely used in a fertility ritual’ have been discovered in Buckinghamshire.

Archaeologists have been studying the third century items unearthed over the course of nine years at the Berryfields housing development site near Aylesbury.

The egg is the only complete object of its kind discovered in the UK and was likely preserved as a result of being placed in a waterlogged pit.

The discovery has been described as ‘exceptional’ by researchers, who say the eggs (the one surviving one is pictured here) were a ‘truly remarkable find’

Edward Biddulph, from Oxford Archaeology told the BBC people of the time would throw objects into the pit for good luck ‘much like a wishing well’.

The team found four complete eggs in the pit but as they were so fragile three of them broke releasing a ‘potent stench of rotten egg’, he told the BBC.

Mr Biddulph described it as a ‘remarkable collection’ of organic materials including leather shoes, wooden tools and a very rare basket. 

Archaeologists have been studying the third century items unearthed over the course of nine years at the Berryfields housing development site near Aylesbury

The team found four complete eggs in the pit but as they were so fragile three of them broke releasing a ‘potent stench of rotten egg’, he told the BBC

The team behind the discovery believe that the eggs and the basket may have been placed in the waterlogged pit as food offerings in a religious ceremon

In Roman society eggs symbolised fertility and rebirth and eggshells have been found in other UK Roman sites before – but never a complete egg.

The team behind the discovery believe that the eggs and the basket may have been placed in the waterlogged pit as food offerings in a religious ceremony.

The discovery has been described as ‘exceptional’ by researchers, who say the eggs were a ‘truly remarkable find’. 

They were found on a site that borders the Roman road of Akeman Street and is next to the Roman town of Fleet Marston.

Oxford Archaology, who are due to publish a book on the findings at the Berryfields site, say the discoveries have helped create a clearer picture of life in Roman Fleet Marston and surrounding villages. 

Researchers have been studying the items uncovered between 2007 and 2016 for the past three years.

They found a range of artefacts and environmental evidence including timbers, organic materials and pottery that highlight details of life in the area.

It’s thought the timber piles supported a bridge that carried the Roman road of Akeman Street over the River Thame.  

They found a range of artefacts and environmental evidence including timbers, organic materials and pottery that highlight details of life in the area

Researchers say the findings from the dig highlights the importance of livestock, especially horses, to the middle Iron Age and Roman economies.

They say that it sheds light on the character of Roman Fleet Marston which had previously only been understood from incidental finds. 

‘Evidence from Berryfields and other sites in the area shows that over time, Fleet Marston found itself at the intersection of several route ways that took travellers into the countryside and on to major towns.’

They say that it sheds light on the character of Roman Fleet Marston which had previously only been understood from incidental finds

Researchers say the findings from the dig highlights the importance of livestock, especially horses, to the middle Iron Age and Roman economies

‘Evidence from Berryfields and other sites in the area shows that over time, Fleet Marston found itself at the intersection of several route ways that took travellers into the countryside and on to major towns

The team say this put it in an important position as a crossroads for life in the late Roman-era Britain.

“Together with hundreds of coins and other finds [found at other digs], this potentially identifies the settlement as a market-place or administrative centre with extensive trade connections.

‘A role that would be continued in nearby Aylesbury in the medieval period and to the present day.’

The team say this put it in an important position as a crossroads for life in the late Roman-era Britain

Together with hundreds of coins and other finds [found at other digs], this potentially identifies the settlement as a market-place or administrative centre with extensive trade connections

From the 4th Century on the Berryfields site had reverted to agricultural land according to the team from Oxford Archaeology. 

The Berryfields site where the dig took place is a major development area to the north-west of Aylesbury and is one of two major housing projects in the town.

The two developments will lead to the creation of 5,000 new homes by 2021.

The findings have been published in a new book called Berryfields. 

They found a range of artefacts and environmental evidence including timbers, organic materials and pottery that highlight details of life in the area

WHEN DID THE ROMANS OCCUPY BRITAIN?

55BC – Julius Caesar crossed the channel with around 10,000 soldiers. They landed at a Pegwell Bay on the Isle of Thanet and were met by a force of Britons. Caesar was forced to withdraw.

54BC – Caesar crossed the channel again in his second attempt to conquer Britain. He came with with 27,000 infantry and cavalry and landed at Deal but were unopposed. They marched inland and after hard battles they defeated the Britons and key tribal leaders surrendered.

However, later that year, Caesar was forced to return to Gaul to deal with problems there and the Romans left.

54BC – 43BC – Although there were no Romans present in Britain during these years, their influence increased due to trade links.

43AD – A Roman force of 40,000 led by Aulus Plautius landed in Kent and took the south east. The emperor Claudius arrived in Colchester with reinforcements. Claudius appointed Plautius as Governor of Britain and returned to Rome.

In 43AD, a Roman force (artist’s impression) of 40,000 led by Aulus Plautius landed in Kent and took the south east. The emperor Claudius then arrived in Colchester with reinforcements

47AD – Londinium (London) was founded and Britain was declared part of the Roman empire. Networks of roads were built across the country.

50AD – Romans arrived in the southwest and made their mark in the form of a wooden fort on a hill near the river Exe.  A town was created at the site of the fort decades later and names Isca. 

When Romans let and Saxons ruled, all ex-Roman towns were called a ‘ceaster’. this was called ‘Exe ceaster’ and a merger of this eventually gave rise to Exeter.   

75 – 77AD – Romans defeated the last resistant tribes, making all Britain Roman. Many Britons started adopting Roman customs and law.

122AD – Emperor Hadrian ordered that a wall be built between England and Scotland to keep Scottish tribes out.

312AD – Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal throughout the Roman empire.

228AD – The Romans were being attacked by barbarian tribes and soldiers stationed in the country started to be recalled to Rome.

410AD – All Romans were recalled to Rome and Emperor Honorious told Britons they no longer had a connection to Rome.

Source: History on the net

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