Inscribed Ostrich Eggs at Berenike and Materiality in Ritual Performance
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Excavation at the port settlement of Berenike Trogodytika on the Red Sea Coast of Egypt has unearthed at least four ostrich eggshells, decorated with arcane symbols in red pigment. The archaeological contexts of the eggshells, which were found in late antique buildings associated with ritual activity, suggest that celebrants employed these artifacts in ritual performances. Many of the signs that appear on the ostrich eggs can be paralleled in other ritual contexts, most notably in the spell manuals known from Graeco-Roman Egypt. While the precise function of the ostrich eggshells cannot be determined, this paper suggests a number of potential uses: display for the purpose of representing the power of the practitioners, execration, and divination.