Add this to the list of ancient texts written on unconventional media: An ostrich egg, discovered in more than 100 pieces in the remains of a mausoleum in Egypt, covered with a eulogy penned in Arabic script.
"We've managed to rebuild one eggshell," said Dr. Dionisius Agius, who helped translate the text when the egg was discovered shortly after the turn of the millennium. "The text appears to be for the funeral of a young man and consists of quotations from the Koran and poetic verses, saying that death will be better than life. The ostrich egg would have been a durable material to write on, and we think they were placed on poles in a mausoleum."
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. Agius suggests that the egg's symbolism passed through Egypt's religious traditions.
No name is mentioned, but translation team believes the writings commemorate a young man. He must have been wealthy to have such a memorial, says Agius.