Two pots, each containing small bronze tools, a pierced eggshell (one of which was intact), and a coin, have been uncovered on top of the remains of an elite building at Sardis thought to have been destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 17. A new building had been constructed over the rubble and the deposits. Elizabeth Raubolt of the University of Missouri, Columbia, thinks that the assemblages may have been intended to protect the new building from future disasters. The Roman historian Pliny recorded how people would break or pierce eggshells after eating in order to ward off evil spells. In contrast, intact eggs could be buried at someone’s gate in order to put a curse on them, Raubolt explained at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America. “You can imagine how nice it smelled after a while,” she added. The two coins date to between A.D. 54 and 68, long after the time the earthquake is thought to have occurred.
Residents of Sardis, an ancient city in modern-day Turkey, spent decades rebuilding after a devastating earthquake struck one night in the year A.D. 17. To ward off demons and future disasters, some locals may have sealed eggshells under their new floors as lucky charms, archaeologists found.
In the summer of 2013 archaeologists were excavating an ancient building at Sardis that was constructed after the earthquake. Underneath the floor, they found two curious containers that each held small bronze tools, an eggshell and a coin, resting just atop the remains of an earlier elite building that was destroyed during the disaster.
The objects in the odd assemblages were important in ancient rituals to keep evil forces at bay, and the archaeologists who found them believe they could be rare examples of how the earthquake affected ancient people on a personal level.