Ostrich eggs as luxury items in the ancient Mediterranean

Decorated ostrich eggs were traded as luxury items from the Middle East to the western Mediterranean during the second and first millennia BCE. The eggs were engraved, painted, and occasionally embellished with ivory, precious metals and faience fittings. While archaeologists note their presence as unusual vessels in funerary and dedicatory contexts, little is known about how or from where they were sourced, decorated and traded. An ongoing project between researchers at Bristol University and the British Museum has established techniques to identify where the eggs originated and how they were decorated. This talk shares the results of our study, revealing the complexity of the production, trade, and economic and social values of luxury organic items between competing cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world.

Image: © Trustees of the British Museum (1850-0227). Photo by T. Hodos.


Dr Tamar Hodos is a world-leading expert on the archaeology of the Mediterranean’s Iron Age (c.1100-c.600 BCE). Her particular expertise lies in the impact of colonisation, and the construction and expression of social identities in multi-cultural contexts. She spearheads the Globalising Luxuries research project, a multi-strand collaboration with the British Museum that explores the role luxuries play in the social and economic relations in the late second and first millennia BCE wider Mediterranean. Her latest book, The Archaeology of the Mediterranean Iron Age, will be published by Cambridge University Press in August 2020.

Join Dr Tamar Hodos as she eggsplores the hidden histories of these enigmatic objects in the wider ancient Mediterranean world.

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