Holidaymakers on city breaks to Sardis have unwittingly been walking over a closely guarded 2,000-year-old secret.
For beneath the Turkish metropolis lies buried what is thought to be an ancient lucky egg, crafted to ward off demons.
Archaeologists found two pots comparatively unbroken, with one containing the remains of a faultlessly preserved, delicate eggshell that have somehow survived two millennia.
Today, tourists can enjoy a city steeped in history with several cultural sites still standing.
But Sardis, the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Lydia, was wiped out by an earthquake in 17 AD.
It is believed the egg was a ritual offering, designed to safeguard the region from further disasters.
Sardis people reconstructed the settlement after the earthquake, and the city remained for centuries until it was eventually forsaken in the 1402.
Archaeologists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Missouri unearthed the pots in tandem with the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis.
They were discovered buried below what would have been an ornate building.
Scientists also uncovered small bronze tools and a coin.
The eggshell had been intentionally pierced, to enable the insides to flow out, but the remainder of the shell had stayed intact.
Eggs through the centuries have been used in ancient rituals, with special reference to "uncrossing".
This is the act of revoking curses, or reversing bad fortune - and warding off evil spirits.
The coin depicts a symbol understood to be the goddess Cybele.
Cybele was associated with the earth, and especially the mountains.
So this offering may have been to appeal to her to safeguard them.
Sardis is in Manisa Province in western Turkey within easy reach of another modern-day tourism favourite, Izmir.
Sardis' situation and riches made it a key metropolis in the Persian Empire, as well as into the Roman and Byzantine ages.
Copyright Press Association 2014
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