These 65,000-year decorated ostrich eggshells
demonstrate common patterns among Paleolithic peoples in Africa.
Alice C. Linsley
The ostrich egg fragments shown above were found at rock shelters in South Africa. They date to between 52,000-100,000 years ago. Pierre-Jean Texier (University of Bordeaux) and his colleagues identified at least five decorative motifs.
Ostriches were prevalent in the ancient world and ostrich shells have been found at Middle and Upper Paleolithic sites throughout the world. Ostrich shells were used as flasks in South Africa 85,000 years ago (Texier et al. 2010, 2013).
Decorated ostrich eggs have been found in tombs and graves, especially those of rulers and children. They appear to express the hope of resurrection or immortality. Likely, this was due to the observation that the ostrich begins laying its eggs after the Winter Solstice when the hours of daylight increase.
The early Hebrew lived and dispersed mainly in the Northern Hemisphere where the Winter Solstice occurs December 21-22. From the Winter Solstice, the hours of daylight increase. In 12-division zodiacs, this transition is associated with the ostrich because it hides its head for a time and begins laying its eggs after the Winter Solstice. The wild ostrich originated in Africa where it produces 90% of its eggs between January and March.
In the Church, the egg is both a symbol of new life and the symbol of Christ's resurrection. This is why eggs are decorated and distributed at Pascha/Easter.
The association of new life or rebirth with the ostrich egg has been verified by archaeological finds. Painted or incised ostrich eggs have been found in El-Badari and ancient Kush (Nubia). In the Oriental Museum there are examples of ostrich eggs which have been decorated over their entire surfaces.
The largest concentration of ostrich eggs to be discovered in one place in Predynastic Egypt were found at a tomb in Hierakonpolis (Nekhen), the oldest known site of Horite Hebrew worship.
In Kush ostrich eggs have been found in the burials of children. In Egypt, ostrich eggs were placed in the graves of the wealthy. At Naqada, a decorated ostrich egg replaced the owner's missing head. This egg is now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.