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Lot 0082I
Africa, Madagascar, ca. 16th century CE or earlier. An amazing elephant bird (Aepyornis maximus) egg, ovoid in form and roughly 200 times larger than a typical chicken egg. It has been reassembled from its cracked pieces into a complete egg. It can hold roughly two imperial gallons (9 liters) of liquid, and a single egg could feed over one hundred people. The birds went extinct sometime before the 17th century, either through over-hunting (particularly of the eggs) or through disease. This is a reminder of a mysterious, lost creature! Custom wooden tripod display stand included. Size: 9.75" W x 12.5" H (24.8 cm x 31.8 cm); 17" H (43.2 cm) on included custom stand.

Elephant birds are the largest bird to have ever lived; they grew to 10 feet tall and weight around 1,000 pounds. They were ratites (flightless birds), related to cassowaries, ostriches, and emus. Their name originates with a description of them written by Marco Polo, who had never seen the birds but had certainly heard of them. He wrote, "The people of the island [Madagascar] report that at a certain season of the year, an extraordinary kind of bird, which they call a rukh, makes its appearance from the southern region. In form is said to resemble the eagle, but it is incomparably greater in size; being so large and strong as to seize an elephant with its talons, and to lift it into the air, in order to drop it on the ground and in this way kill it." Of course, elephant birds did no such thing - they were flightless and herbivores - but their size was clearly a legend!

Elephant bird eggs were a food source in Madagascar for natives, and their shells were used to carry water and rum (natives of Madagascar brought the shells to Mauritius as containers for the alcohol they intended to purchase). When one of the shells came to Paris in 1851, it sparked a craze amongst Europeans to own them.

Provenance: private California, USA collection

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Repaired from multiple pieces with some new material and adhesive residue along break lines. Minor surface wear and light abrasions, and some age-related yellowing to some fragments.

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16th C. Elephant Bird Egg from Madagascar

Estimate $1,500 - $2,000Jul 19, 2018
686 S. Taylor Avenue Suite 106
Louisville, CO 80027
United States
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