Published: May 11, 2022

Anthropology alumni Robert J. Diehl and Hannah M. Keller, along with Associate Professor of Anthropology Jamie Hodgkins, recently published, “Towards an interpretive framework for heated ostrich eggshell: An actualistic study,” in the Journal of Archeological Science Reports. Ostrich eggshells have been uncovered in ancient archaeological sites dating to more than one million years old, before evidence for the controlled use of fire by ancient humans, thus are items with a long history of human use. If ostrich eggs were collected by humans at this ancient age, then they were originally consumed raw, but contemporary ethnographic records almost uniformly describe them as being cooked. Cooking eggs makes sense because recent nutritional studies have noted significant increases in protein absorption when consuming cooked eggs compared to raw eggs. Thus, cooking eggs is the optimal strategy, and archaeological indicators of cooking should be expected to appear consistently after ancient humans learned to control of fire, one million years. This paper is unique in that it is the first to discuss and compare whole ostrich eggs vs. fragments in direct and indirect heat, providing characteristics to help determine if eggs were intentionally cooked or affected by other processes like wildfires. In addition, this paper provides an important step towards helping archaeologists evaluate whether ostrich eggshells found at a site were part of the human food base or unintentionally incorporated into the site.