ARCHAEOLOGISTS accidentally released the world’s oldest stinkbombs when they found a basket of 1,700-year-old Roman chicken eggs — and broke three of them.
Despite being overcome by the ‘potent stench’, they did manage to preserve a fourth egg intact, the first one ever in Britain.
Experts found the eggs in a waterlogged pit which they think was a Roman ‘wishing well’ in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
Dig project manager Stuart Foreman, of Oxford Archaeology, said: ‘There’s a very good reason it’s the first and only find in the UK.
‘In a pit that has been waterlogged for thousands of years you get things that would never survive in a dry environment.
‘Three eggs broke and let off a potent stench.
‘But it’s incredible we even got one out. They were so fragile.’
Alongside the eggs were dozens of coins, shoes, wooden tools and a ‘very rare’ basket.
Oxford Archaeology’s Edward Biddulph added: ‘Passersby would have perhaps stopped to throw in offerings to make a wish for the gods of the underworld to fulfil.
‘The Romans associated eggs with rebirth and fertility, for obvious reasons.
‘We have found chicken bones and broken eggshells in Roman graves in Britain before, but never a complete egg.’
Experts said the pit was initially used for malting grain to brew beer from the 2nd to 3rd century AD, before it started being used for offerings.
They found the egg at a dig site located next to the A41, which lies on an old Roman road connecting St Albans, Bicester and Cirencester.
The only other example of an intact Roman chicken egg was recovered from under the hand of a child buried in the Italian city, which was reported in 2010.
The British egg will go on show at the Buckinghamshire County Museum alongside the other finds.
The dig was part of the condition of planning permission for the Berryfields site, a mix of housing and community facilities.