Saturday, April 4, 2015

"Easter" Eggs in Antiquity

Painted ostrich egg 7th century BC
Credit: De Agostini Picture Library 

Alice C. Linsley

The first painted eggs were ostrich eggs. The painted ostrich egg in the photo above was found on Cyprus. Habiru/Hebrew priests were living there from great antiquity. Barnabas (Joses) was a Levite and a native of Cyprus according to Acts 4:36.

Painted eggs represented the hope of eternal life or immortality. This is evident from archaeological finds throughout Africa. 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. At Naqada, a decorated ostrich egg replaced the owner's missing head. This egg is now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Ostrich eggs, which are as hard as earthenware when dry, were used in prehistoric times throughout the Nile valley as perfume containers, bowls for oblutions, and as canteens. Ostrich feathers were worn in the hair of warriors and rulers of ancient Egypt, and the Egyptian goddess Ma'at is shown with an ostrich feather in her hair. Using this feather, she weighed the hearts of the dead to determine who would enter eternal life and who would experience the second death (Rev. 2:11, 20:14).

Painted ostrich eggs have been found in tombs at Hierakonpolis (Nekhen) and in many graves of children in ancient Nubia (Kush)The oldest find of decorated ostrich eggshells includes 270 engraved shell fragments, excavated in the area of Diepkloof Rock Shelter in South Africa. These are between 65,000 and 55,000 years old.

The ostrich represents the Winter Solstice.  This explains why the ostrich is placed between the Bull (symbol of the Autumnal Equinox) and the Griffin Vulture (symbol of the Spring Equinox) in Elihu's discourse on the transcendence of the Creator in the book of Job. The Winter Solstice marks the end of the old year and the birth of a new year.

Abraham's Horite people observed the Spring Equinox (March 21-22), the Summer Solstice (June 21-22), the Autumnal Equinox (Sept. 21-22), the Winter Solstice (Dec. 21-22). From the Winter Solstice, the hours of daylight lengthen and the Sun is shown to be Sol Invictus ("the undefeated Sun"). This is symbolized by the ostrich which hides its head for a time by lying flat against the ground, and after the Winter Solstice, it begins laying its eggs. The wild ostrich, which originates in Africa, produces 90% of its eggs between January and March.

Ostrich eggs were traded by Abraham's Kushite ancestors, some of whom were rulers in Kerma, between the third and fourth cataracts on the Upper Nile. These rulers, such as Nimrod (son of Kush), established trade routes that connected the interior of Africa to Egypt, Arabia, Syria, India, and Mediterranean islands such as Cyprus. They traded exotic hardwoods, animals and their skins, ivory, ostrich eggs and ostrich feathers. "Through the wealth built up by this exchange of goods, the Nubians of Kerma became exceedingly rich....." (The Nubians by R.S.Bianchi)

Archaeologists have found painted ostrich eggs in the graves of children. These appear to symbolize the hope of life after death.  In the Eastern Orthodox churches delicately patterned eggs are a central part of the celebration of the Pascha. For Christians, the Easter egg is a reminder that Jesus rose from the grave, and that those who believe in Him will share in His eternal life.

Related reading:  The Ostrich in Biblical Symbolism; Abraham and Job: Horite Rulers; The Christ in Nilotic Mythology; Paleolithic Ostrich Eggshells; The Empty Tomb: Yeshua is Risen!; Ostrich Egg Water Containers


Jay Eppinga said...

Such an odd thing that people thought to adorn eggs. And that it caught on and was owned by other cultures (particularly the Ukrainians).

Among the various Ainu diaspora, are their cultural oddities (like our Easter eggs) that are shared? I know about the head-dress for the elders, but I am curious if there are other things.

Thank you,
- Jay

DDeden said...

The oldest (known) ostrich eggs were scratched in a ZigZag or crosshatched pattern.

Similar patterns are found on an ~70ka ochre bar from South Africa, and on a 420ka clamshell from Indonesia.

My guess is that this was done to improve surface tactility, the ability to carry water distances would depend on not dropping the container while on rough ground.

Water bottle gourds (calabash/opo) are similarly etched, and coconuts (kelapa).

I don't think leather "wineskin" bags and portable well folding buckets of leather were engraved originally since they were strung, but... One might see a pattern of both water ownership and ancient enscription developing in parallel simply as a result of identifiable individualized scratches on the containers.

Alice Linsley said...

Jay, Ostrich eggs were used as vessels, and these were decorated, just as people later decorated ceramic bowls.