Lot 8
  • 8

An intact and complete elephant bird egg

15,000 - 20,000 GBP
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  • [Madagascar, 17th century or earlier]
  • eggshell
The complete egg 310mm. high and 240mm. diameter, weight approx. 15kg, pierced on facing sides with two small holes (presumably to drain it), and filled with sand, a few small surface chips, very light surface marking, but generally in very good condition

Catalogue Note

The now-extinct elephant bird was a ratite (or flightless bird) of the genus Aepyornis, which comprised a number of species (possibly seven), of which the term most commonly refers to the Aepyornis maximus. Indigenous to the island of Madagascar, the elephant bird typically grew to a height of about three metres tall and usually weighed some 450kg. For reasons that remain unclear, but may include hunting by European settlers and the loss of habitat due to deforestation and/or climate change, the elephant bird became extinct possibly as early as the thirteenth century (cf. Steven M. Goodman and William L. Jungers, Extinct Madagascar (2014), p. 64) and certainly by the end of the seventeenth century (the eggs may also have been collected for food and certainly the shells were used to transport water by the Malagasy during the nineteenth century). Elephant birds’ eggs are believed to be the largest of any oviparous animal, and they became sought-after rarities and curiosities during the late nineteenth century – especially intact examples – and the interest in them continues to the present day.