10 December 2013

Medieval funeral poetry inscribed on an ostrich egg

Archaeologists have uncovered a 500-year-old ostrich egg covered in Arabic poetry. The verses mourn the death of a loved one.

The egg was found in the Red Sea port of Quseir, Egypt. In the fifteenth century, Quseir was a hub for trade between the Middle East and India, and a stop on the pilgrim route between North Africa and Mecca...

The shell is covered with quotations from the Koran and poetry: "It describes the soul's journey from death to life," says historian Dionisius Agius, of the University of Leeds, who is analysing the text.

Eggs bearing Arabic writing are rare, although another was found in Quseir 20 years ago. The ancient Egyptians used ostrich eggs for perfume containers and drinking cups, and the country's Coptic Christians hung them as lanterns in their churches.
Photo and text from Nature, via Erik Kwakkel.

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