Ancients Used Egg Shells as Lucky Charms: Page 2

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Zeus Lydios and Cybele were the father and mother gods of the region, associated with storms and mountains — perhaps the right deities to pray to for those trying to prevent an earthquake. A numismatist, Jane Evans of Temple University dated those two coins to the reign of Roman Emperor Nero, who ruled from A.D. 54 to 68, showing that these offerings were laid in the ground at least a few decades after the disaster.

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Nearly identical ritual deposits dating back to the early Imperial era were found around the Artemis Temple in Sardis during the early 20th-century excavations, Raubolt noted. And locals seem to have buried strange things under their floors long before the earthquake.

In one grisly example, archaeologists in the 1960s found 30 pots and jars dating back to the Lydian period, some 500 years earlier, each containing an iron knife and a puppy skeleton with butchering marks. It's not clear if those "puppy burials" are linked to the later egg entombments of the Roman era, but they at least attest to the long tradition of ritual practice in the region, Raubolt said.

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It's been difficult for researchers to find direct evidence of the A.D. 17 earthquake. Archaeologists have found some large fills of earthquake debris that had been dumped to relevel the ground. They can see evidence of reconstruction on the Temple of Artemis. From literary sources and accounts of public rebuilding efforts, they know and that Imperial aid flowed into Sardis from Rome. To thank the emperors, the people of Sardis even renamed themselves the "Kaisareis Sardianoi" or "Sardians of the Caesars." But how the "average Joes of antiquity" reacted to the quake has been largely unknown, Raubolt told LiveScience.

"That's what makes this deposit so interesting," Raubolt said. "It's one person's way of coping with the uncertainties and tumultuous events of that period."

Further excavation work might help determine what kind of building was constructed on top of these offerings. The team finds a lot of glass beads on site, Raubolt noted, which suggests it may have been a store, but it's use is not yet clear.

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