Dhis scent was “unforgettable”. At least that's how those who weren't lucky enough to be around when the eggs broke, as researchers led by Edward Biddulph of Oxford Archaeology, remember. It smelled strongly of sulfur. Which is not surprising considering the 1,700-year-old eggs.

Scientists found four suspected chicken eggs during excavations in 2010 near Aylesbury, the county capital of Buckinghamshire, England. They lay in a woven basket. They were found, along with some coins, ceramic pots, leather shoes and animal bones, in a water-filled pit from which water was probably extracted for brewing as early as Roman times, around AD 270-300.

Eggs may have been the victims. Three of them broke immediately, and probably mainly due to age. Only one egg is still intact, and not only that: in addition to the air bubble, there is also liquid inside. This only came to light a few weeks ago when the egg was re-examined closely. The aim was to find out how the fragile find could be preserved.

In the subway with a 2000-year-old egg

The egg was scanned by conservator Dana Goodburn-Brown using a CT scanner at the University of Kent. It turned out that it wasn't empty as Biddulph had feared. “We were absolutely thrilled to see that the egg had not been sucked out, but was still filled with fluid,” the excavation manager said, according to British media. The contents are probably a mixture of egg yolk and egg white.

Now we think about how to get to the content without breaking the shell. To do this, Biddulph had the egg examined by two bird egg experts at the Natural History Museum in London. He even delivered it himself, although he said he had an uneasy feeling walking through town with the almost 2,000-year-old egg. The subway ride was especially difficult, even though he not only had the egg in his pocket, but rather in a well-protected box.

Curators Douglas Russell and Arianna Bernucci examined the find at the museum. There are older eggs with contents dating back to ancient Egypt that were found in Dendera as early as 1898 and were part of the museum's collection, Russell says. But these eggs were mummified. Russell believes the Aylesbury egg is the oldest of its kind, having unwittingly survived for centuries. “That's what makes it so exciting.”