VIRANSEHIR, SANLIURFA PROVINCE, Turkey — A team of archaeologists working in southeastern Turkey has solved a riddle that has bedeviled scientists and philosophers for more than 4,000 years. The question of which came first—the chicken or the egg—can now be answered with certainty. The egg came first.
Sifting through sediment dating from 8,700 to 8,200 BC, the archaeologists discovered shards of eggshell inscribed with symbols from a language thought to be a forerunner of pre-proto-Canaanite. When fitted together the shards formed a nearly complete shell. It was then that the tantalizing phrase came into view, which a self-taught linguist on vacation in the area translated as “This here first egg ever, chicken to follow.”
“We’re not as excited as we thought we would be after making a discovery like this,” said Dr. Hubert Krandel, leader of the excavation and director of archaeology at Jefferson Middle School in Milwaukee, Wis. “But we’re still somewhat thrilled; or, I guess, ‘thrilled’ is probably too strong a word—it’s more like we’re getting a kick out of it, having found the thing, the first egg that didn’t come from a chicken.”
Some archaeologists dispute the significance of the Krandel Team’s find, claiming the inscription on the egg is ambiguous and open to various interpretations. “Read it yourself,” said Dr. Sharon Foley, an archaeologist at Bunion Elementary School in Dallas, TX. “It’s clear that Krandel found the first egg, but you’d need to have a brain the size of a gum ball to conclude that the egg didn’t come from a chicken. If Krandel thinks the egg somehow laid itself, he should say so in a peer-reviewed journal.”
In response to Foley’s criticism, Krandel noted he’d once met Foley at an archaeology conference and “found her to be immature, even infantile. It seemed as if she herself had just emerged from an egg and was still wet and messy from the hatching,” he said.
Responding to those remarks, Foley recalled meeting Krandel at the same conference. “His way of speaking was so crude and primitive that I mistook him for a living specimen of Homo erectus,” she said. “Then it struck me that his manner was more Neolithic, and I thought to myself, ‘All he lacks is a wooden spear and a stone carving tool’.”
Further analysis of the First Egg revealed inscriptions on the inside of the shell, “possibly graffiti,” according to Amy Logos, an authority on pecking and scratching at the Institute of Poultry Communications in Lincoln, Neb. “It may turn out, though, that these marks are not language per se, but lines and symbols used in a solitary game, which the chick may have played while awaiting the signal to peck and hatch. Observed in a certain light and from a certain angle, the marks appear to be an early version of tick-tack-toe. What’s striking is that the poor chick seems never to have won a game.”