An ancient Arabian Ostrich (Struthio camelus syriacus) egg shell from the Village of Qidfa', Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates
By: Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa
Note: This scientific article was published as :
Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2009). An ancient Arabian Ostrich (Struthio camelus syriacus) egg-shell from the Village of Qidfa', Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. ISSN 0178 – 6288. Twenty-seventh Year, Number 96, December 2009, Thu Al Hijja 1430 AH. pp. 1-25. Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. http://arabian-ostrich.webs.com/
I visited Fujairah Museum, Fujairah City, United Arab Emirates on the 09th December and 15th December 2009.
I saw many archaeological findings from the Emirate of Fujairah which was exhibited.
One of these interesting findings was an ancient Arabian Ostrich (Struthio camelus syriacus) egg-shell from the Village of Qidfa', Emirate of Fujairah. The egg-shell was found in "Qidfa' 1" tomb, and was probably used as a liquid container, dating from 1500 - 1000 B.C. This is a material evidence of the historical presence of the Arabian Ostrich in the United Arab Emirates. The Arabian Ostrich is now extinct.
An ancient Arabian Ostrich (Struthio camelus syriacus) egg shell from the Village of Qidfa', Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. The Egg Shell was found in "Qidfa' 1" tomb, and was probably used as a liquid container. Date: 1500 - 1000 B.C. Foto: Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa. Fujairah Museum. 15th December 2009. www.fotocommunity.de/pc/pc/display/21831255
The Middle Eastern Ostrich or Arabian Ostrich (Struthio camelus syriacus Rothschild, 1919) is an extinct subspecies of the ostrich which once lived on the Arabian Peninsula and in the Near East. Its range seems to have been continuous in prehistoric times, but with the drying-up of the Arabian Peninsula, it disappeared from the inhospitable areas of the Arabian Desert such as the Rub' Al-Khali. In historic times, the bird seems to have occurred in 2 discrete subpopulations: a smaller one in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula and a larger one in the area where today the borders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq and Syria meet. Towards the Sinai Peninsula, it probably intergraded with the North African subspecies (Struthio camelus camelus Linnaeus, 1758) in earlier times. It looked exactly like that form; possibly, the females were of a slightly lighter coloration. The only certain way to distinguish S. c. camelus and S. c. syriacus was the smaller size of the latter, with only marginal overlap: the tarsus was 390 - 465 mm long in S. c. syriacus versus 450 - 530 mm in S. c. camelus (Wikipedia: Arabian Ostrich).
The Arabian Ostrich has long had a significant place in the culture of the region. An adult with 11 offspring is featured on the famous prehistoric "Graffiti Rock I" near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In Mesopotamia, it was used as a sacrificial animal and featured in artwork, painted on cups and other objects made from ostrich eggs, traded as far as Etruria during the Neo-Assyrian period.
The Jewish view of this bird was less favorable. The fact that the female ostrich may leave the nest unattended (because the eggs are too thick-shelled to be easily broken open by predators) is the reason why the bird was chastised as a bad parent in the Book of Job (Job 39:13-18) and the Book of Lamentations (Lamentations 4:3). The Arabian Ostrich is possibly among the birds forbidden to Jews as unclean under the “kashrut” in Leviticus (Leviticus 11:16), though the Israelites would just as likely have known the birds from the North African subspecies which was extant in the Nile Valley of Egypt at that time (Wikipedia: Arabian Ostrich).
Pack of male and female ostriches in Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve, Occupied Palestine. In this reserve ostriches are kept, reproduce and then released into the wild. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Yaen002.jpg
In Roman times, there was a demand for ostriches to use in “venatio games” (slaughter of animals in a Roman amphitheatre) or cooking. These birds usually would have come from the North African subspecies rather than from the Arabian one, as the latter was only found in the unruly frontier regions of the Roman Empire, although it is to be noted that much later, the plumes of the Arabian Ostrich were considered superior material for millinery compared to those of the North African subspecies.
After the rise of Islam, the Arabian Ostrich came to represent wealth and elegance; ostrich hunting became a popular pastime for the rich and noble (if slaughtered properly, ostrich meat is “halal” to Muslims) and eggs, feathers and leather were extensively used in handicraft. Arabian Ostrich products as well as live birds were exported as far as China. A Tang Dynasty source states that the "camel bird" inhabiting Arabia is ”four ‘chi’ (Chinese unit of measurement) and more in height, its feet resembling those of a camel; its neck is very strong, and men are able to ride on its back...”.
The Arabian Ostrich was also discussed in Mesopotamian scholarly writings from the time of the Baghdad Caliphate, such as Zakariya Al-Qazwini's cosmography “Aja'ib al-Makhluqat wa Ghara'ib al-Mawjudat“ (Marvels of things created and Miraculous aspects of things existing), the “Kitab al-Hayawan“ (The Book of Animals) of Al-Jahiz, or Ibn Al-Manzur's dictionary “Lisan al-Arab” (The tongue of the Arabs) (Wikipedia: Arabian Ostrich).
Painting of an Arabian Ostrich sitting on eggs in her nest. From “Kitab al-Hayawan“ (The Book of Animals) of Al-Jahiz . Syria, 14th century. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Syrischer_Maler_um_1335_001.jpg
The widespread introduction of firearms and, later, motor vehicles marked the start of the decline towards extinction of this subspecies. Earlier, hunting with bow, arrows and dogs had allowed most animals of a group to escape, but rifles enabled the poachers to shoot down many individuals for the sheer fun of it. By the early 20th century, the Arabian Ostrich had become rare. Its main stronghold was the northern Nefud northwards to the Syrian Desert, between latitudes 34°N and 25°N and longitude 38°E eastwards to the Euphrates Valley, and it was most plentiful in Al Jawf Province, where it associated with herds of the Saudi Gazelle (Gazella saudiya) and the Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx), both also extinct or very rare, respectively, nowadays. Some of the last sightings include an individual east of the Tall al-Rasatin at the Jordanian-Iraqi border in 1928, a bird shot and eaten by pipeline workers in the area of Jubail in the early 1940s (some sources specifically state 1941), two apocryphal records of birds suffering the same fate in 1948, and a dying individual found in the upper Wadi el-Hasa north of Petra in 1966. Remains of old eggs are still found in the former range of the southern subpopulation, which disappeared between the 1900s and the 1920s, probably mainly because of increasing aridity. Some eggshell fragments were collected by St. John Philby from Mahadir Summan, Arabia around 1931. Following analyses of mitochondrial DNA control region haplotypes that confirmed the close relationship of the Arabian and the North African subspecies (Robinson and Matthee, 1999), a reintroduction project using Struthio camelus camelus was set up in Saudi Arabia (Seddon and Soorae, 1999). Today the Somali Ostrich (Struthio camelus molybdophanes Reichenow, 1883) is re-introduced from captivity to the open areas of the Naqab (Negev) in occupied Palestine where the Arabian Ostrich lived before (Wikipedia: Arabian Ostrich).
An Ostrich at Qaryet Al Asad (The Lion Village). Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road, Egypt. Photographer: Ola Mostafa Khalaf. 27.07.2007. http://arabian-ostrich.webs.com/ & http://www.fotocommunity.de/pc/pc/extra/buddies/display/21947580
Consider these two facts:
1- Not one ostrich (Struthio camelus syriacus) bone has ever been recorded in an archaeological excavation anywhere in the Arabian Peninsula;
2- The ostrich does not inhabit this region today. If a statement of this sort were made about virtually any other bird or animal, one would not hesitate to declare its historic absence from the region in question. Yet the presence of ostrich in Arabia in the recent past is demonstrated with certainty by numerous sightings reported in the ethnohistoric literature and its presence in the more remote past is strongly suggested by depictions of ostrich in petroglyphs, on rock reliefs and on painted pottery; and by finds of ostrich egg-shell on archaeological sites. Apart from providing a cautionary lesson in the tradition of that time-honoured maxim, `absence of evidence is not evidence of absence', an examination of the Arabian finds may help to resolve at least three outstanding questions of more general interest:
1- How widespread was the genus Struthio in the past ?
2- What does the occurrence of ostrich eggshell on archaeological sites tell us about the geographical distribution of Struthio populations in the wild ?
3- To what extent were ostrich actively hunted in antiquity ? (Potts, 2001).
Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa is holding a young Ostrich in one of the shops at Sharjah Birds and Animals Market, Sharjah City, United Arab Emirates. Behind him is his wife Ola Mostafa Khalaf. The price of a pair of young ostrich varies between 1200 - 3000 Emirati Dirham (330 - 820 US Dollars). Photo by the author’s daughter: Nora Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf. 28th June 2010. http://www.fotocommunity.de/pc/pc/display/21915604
Miocene finds (6-8 million years old) of fossil ostrich egg-shell from the Baynunah Formation in western Abu Dhabi (Whybrow and Clements 1999a, 1999b) strongly suggest that Struthionids were indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula rather than immigrants from North Africa, as so often assumed (e.g. Finer 1982, Camps-Fabrer 1995). Ornithologists have suggested that the range of Struthio camelus syriacus was originally between circle 34 degrees and 22 degrees North, or roughly from the Damascus-Baghdad line to a point just south of Riyadh, and from Sinai in the west to the Euphrates and Gulf region in the east (Meinertzhagen 1954, Greenway 1967). Yet such a view belies a northern bias in the modern sources, most of which derive from 18th-century East India Company merchants, 19th-century travellers and early 20th-century political and military officers active in the north Arabian desert between Syria and the Mesopotamian plain. Indeed, so common were sightings in this region during the 19th century that Victorian travellers who failed to see an ostrich in their wanderings (e.g. Blunt 1880, Euting 1886) felt aggrieved enough to comment upon it (Potts, 2001).
An ancient Arabian Ostrich (Struthio camelus syriacus) egg shell from the Village of Qidfa', Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. The Egg Shell was found in "Qidfa' 1" tomb, and was probably used as a liquid container. Date: 1500 - 1000 B.C. Foto: Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa. Fujairah Museum. 09th December 2009. www.fotocommunity.de/pc/pc/mypics/1213259/display/22065236
It is clear, however, that the ostrich originally inhabited areas stretching far to the south of the 22nd parallel. Ibn al-Mujawir, for example, says that ostriches (Arabic na'am) abounded in Yemen, i.e. the extreme southwest of the peninsula, during the 13th century (Serjeant 1976, cf. Wadi Na'am which runs south towards the western end of Wadi Hadramawt just above Shibam), suggesting that the southern range of the ostrich should be extended to at least 14 degrees North (Potts, 2001).
The continued presence of the ostrich in southern Arabia as late as the early 20th century is also suggested by the testimony of an Otaibi tribesman who told J.J. Hess that, while his father used to hunt ostrich in central Arabia, they now occurred only `in the south' (Pieper 1923). This is supported by Bertram Thomas who, in 1931, wrote, a propos the eastern Rub al-Khali, that although `Members of my party had shot ostriches here ... firearms and the pursuit of an unenlightened self-interest by the Badu have extinguished the ostrich' (Thomas 1931, 1932). Although Philby suggested in 1933 that the ostrich had been hunted out of existence in the southern Rub al-Khali `about forty or fifty years' earlier (Philby 1933, cf. Pollog 1934, Philby 1950), Meinertzhagen believed it only became extinct around 1941 (Meinertzhagen 1954) while, according to Greenway, the last Arabian ostrich was `killed and eaten by Arabs near the oil pipe line north of Bahrein, Hasa Province, between 1940 and 1945' (Greenway 1967, cf. Heard-Bey 1996, Hellyer 1992, contra Thesiger 1950).
Unfortunately, the anecdotal nature of the evidence just reviewed compounds the difficulty of estimating the ancient range of Struthio in Arabia since it is derived almost entirely from the testimony of European travellers. Fortunately, pictorial evidence from Arabia can be drawn upon to document the presence of the ostrich there in the past. While it is virtually impossible, in the present state of research, to date the petroglyphs depicting ostriches in Arabia, it is striking that these occur all over the peninsula. In the north, we find ostrich represented in the Hijaz (Winnett & Reed 1970, Koenig 1971), the Jawf-Sakaka region (Parr et al. 1978) and the Nefud (Howe 1950, with references). Ostrich petroglyphs can also be found in the central-western (Zarins et al. 1980) and south-central portions of the peninsula (Ryckmans 1949, Anati 1968, 1974; cf. Ryckmans 1976), in the Wadi Dawasir and Najran areas (Zarins et al. 1981, Kabawi et al. 1996) and in Oman (Clarke 1975, location unspecified). Incised representations of ostriches in South Arabian reliefs are known from as-Sawda (ancient Nashshan), where they have been dated to the 8th century BC (Audouin 1996), and on the door jambs of a temple at E1 Hazm (ancient Haram) (Fakhry 1952, cf. Hofner 1965, Ryckmans 1976, 1993). By themselves these depictions do not constitute unequivocal evidence that ostrich once lived in Yemen, but in conjunction with the testimony of Ibn al-Mujawir, cited above, this seems highly plausible (Potts, 2001).
To this pictorial evidence we may add also representations of ostrich on locally made, painted pottery where it is reasonably certain that we are not dealing with foreign, imported wares. A painted ceramic beaker from Shimal tomb 6 of early 2nd millennium B.C. date showing what appears to be a frieze of ostriches (de Cardi 1988) finds a virtually identical parallel in a contemporary sherd from Tell Abraq (Potts 2000a). As Shimal and Tell Abraq are both located close to the coast of the northern United Arab Emirates the presence of ostrich as a decorative element in what is patently local pottery strongly suggests that the range of ostrich in the early 2nd millennium B.C. was considerably further to the east than has commonly been assumed. Ostriches are also depicted on painted pottery from Raybun, in the Wadi Hadramawt of Yemen, sometime between the 13th/12th and 8th/7th centuries B.C. (Sedov 1996), thus providing a further piece of supporting evidence for a much more southerly boundary to the ancient distribution of ostrich than ornithologists have suggested (Potts, 2001).
The author and his daughter Nora Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf (11 years) holding African Ostrich egg shells at one of the shops in Souk Al Arsah, Heritage Area, Sharjah City, United Arab Emirates. The price of an egg-shell is 40 Emirati Dirham (11 US Dollars). Foto by the author’s wife: Ola Mostafa Khalaf. 02nd August 2010. www.fotocommunity.de/pc/pc/extra/buddies/display/22032858
Ostrich egg-shell on archaeological sites in the Arabian Peninsula and the past distribution of Struthio :
But perhaps the most contentious evidence of ostrich in Arabia is provided by its shell. A substantial number of finds of ostrich egg-shell have been made on archaeological sites throughout the peninsula. The question is how to interpret this evidence. For example, Mashkour and Van Neer have argued that, in the absence of ostrich bone, the presence of ostrich eggshell fragments on an archaeological site does not necessarily mean that the bird's natural habitat overlapped with that site (Mashkour & Van Neer 1999). Similarly, in commenting on ostrich eggshell found near Mintirib and Bilad Bani Bu Ali in the Wahiba sands of Oman, M. Gallagher expressed the view that `none of these sites is likely to have been suitable for Ostrich in antiquity, and the fragments very probably came from eggs used as domestic ware' (Gallagher 1988). Generally, then, there is a belief expressed in much of the literature that the distribution of post-Pleistocene ostrich eggshell in Arabia far surpasses the actual range of Struthio at any time prior to its extinction (Potts, 2001).
Such a view, however, is not universal. Speaking of Holocene sites with ostrich egg-shell in the Rub al-Khali, McClure stoutly rejected the proposition that an absence of ostrich bone implied the absence of the bird itself (McClure 1984) and indeed this view would seem to be supported by the ethnohistoric, literary and representational evidence reviewed above which points to the presence of the ostrich throughout the Arabian peninsula in the pre-modern era (Potts, 2001).
An ancient Arabian Ostrich (Struthio camelus syriacus) egg shell from the Village of Qidfa', Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. The Egg Shell was found in "Qidfa' 1" tomb, and was probably used as a liquid container. Date: 1500 - 1000 B.C. Foto: Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa. Fujairah Museum. 09th December 2009. http://arabian-ostrich.webs.com/
One case in point which deserves particular attention is the northern United Arab Emirates, in particular the site of Tell Abraq (on the border of the emirates of Umm Al Qaiwain and Sharjah) where we have both an ostrich depiction on pottery (discussed above) and abundant evidence of eggshell. The excavation of a 6 m in diameter collective burial containing a minimum number of 394 individuals and dating to circa 2100-2000 B.C. (Potts and Weeks 1999; Potts 2000b) yielded no fewer than 61 fragments of ostrich egg-shell (Potts 2000a; 2000b). Weighing on average 1545 g, ostrich eggs are the largest eggs laid by any known species of bird. Able to bear weight up to 76 kg before cracking (Deeming & Ar 1999), ostrich eggshells are eminently suited for use as non-plastic containers and indeed were used as such not only in Arabia but in Mesopotamia (Laufer 1926, Moorey 1994), the Levant (Bodenheimer 1960, Caubet 1983), the Aegean (Sakellarakis 1990, Poplin 1995) and North Africa (Poplin 1995, Camps-Fabrer 1995).
In the 7th century A.D., according to Al-Waqidi, ostrich eggs were hidden in the Arabian Desert `to hold supplies of water' by the Prophet Mohammad's armies (Serjeant 1976). In Islamic tradition ostrich eggs came to be used as `receptacles, oil lamps, braising pans, etc', in mosques and eventually exported to the Christian West they were transformed into a symbol of the Resurrection in churches (Vire 1993). In 1857 ostrich egg-shells could be bought in Medina, as Sir Richard F. Burton found and in 1915 they were routinely available along the pilgrim road near Ma'an; indeed they became the quintessential souvenir of the hajj for pilgrims and `even in India Arabian ostrich eggs were often found hanging up in mosques, treasures from the home of Islam' (Meinertzhagen 1954).
Remarkably, even after ostriches became extinct in Arabia their eggs continued to be found in the remote desert areas of Yemen (Serjeant 1976) and Saudi Arabia (McClure 1971). This curious fact is perhaps explained by the existence of Islamic legislation against destroying ostrich eggs and the killing or hunting of animals during the hajj pilgrimage, which suggests a particular veneration for the bird and its reproduction (Vire 1993).
The author holding African Ostrich egg shells at one of the shops in Souk Al Arsah, Heritage Area, Sharjah City, United Arab Emirates. The price of an egg-shell is 40 Emirati Dirham (11 US Dollars). Foto by the author’s wife: Ola Mostafa Khalaf. 02nd August 2010. http://arabian-ostrich.webs.com/
Although the wide distribution of ostrich in Arabia can be demonstrated by the ethnohistoric, representational and eggshell evidence just reviewed, the universal absence of ostrich bones in faunal inventories from excavations in the Arabian peninsula nevertheless suggests that ostriches were not killed for their meat in ancient Arabia, as was the case in Mesopotamia (Salonen 1973, Finer 1982), east Africa (Huntingford 1980) and Roman North Africa (Camps-Fabrer 1995). Maria Hofner suggested that a prohibition on ostrich hunting might have existed in pre-Islamic Arabia because the bird symbolized a deity, albeit in South Arabia and possibly only in the Minaean area (Hofner 1965). Speaking of mediaeval South Arabia, Serjeant wrote, `I do not recall any reference to ostrich hunting in Arabic sources' (1976). Indeed the difficulty of even approaching an ostrich is well-illustrated by Joyce who, in 1918, saw three ostriches several kilometres west of the Wadi Sirhan. He wrote, `The birds allowed me to approach within 600 to 800 yards, and then made off in a westerly direction' (Cheesman 1923b). Yet we know that ostriches were sometimes hunted in pre-modern Arabia, albeit not for their meat. Rather, ostrich were hunted in Arabia, as in North Africa, principally for their feathers (Potts, 2001).
Ostrich Stamp. Game Protection Set. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Issue date: 5 October 1968. www.birdtheme.org/country/jordan.html
During the 1870s, for example, ostriches were `hunted for the sake of their feathers' in the region between Buraimi and al-Hasa (Miles 1877). Moreover, a list of Bedouin names for horses recorded in the 1930s (some of which go back to the pre-Islamic era) includes the name `Nafis' meaning `tuft of ostrich feathers [fastened below the spear blade] of the rider's lance' (Raswan 1945). Whether foreign demand for ostrich feathers, used to decorate both hair and hats (Hooper 1894), had an effect on the incidence of ostrich hunting in Arabia is difficult to say, but certainly Miles remarked on the fact that the feathers hunted in eastern Arabia all went to Mecca as there was no market for them locally, and this suggests that they were probably destined for the large market of hajj pilgrims who visited the Holy City each year (Potts, 2001).
In any event the difficulty of catching and killing an ostrich should not be underestimated. Burkhardt noted that the only way the Arabs of north Arabia could ever kill an ostrich was by using an ingenious method in which a gun buried in the sand near a clutch of eggs was discharged via a long fuse at night in the hope that it might hit a nesting bird (Prater 1921). Arabian petroglyphs certainly show ostrich being hunted by men on horseback (Moritz 1923, Kabawi 1989), and although we cannot date the pictures it is significant that Strabo, drawing on Eratosthenes (died c. 195 B.C.), remarked specifically on the absence of the horse both in Southern Arabia and in the Nabataean kingdom of northwestern Arabia. It is likely, therefore, that petroglyphs showing ostrich hunters mounted on horseback probably post-date the last centuries B.C., at the earliest. Whatever the date of those images, ostrich hunting on horseback was both difficult and expensive. Writing of Arabs in north Africa who hunted ostrich for the sake of their feathers, Canon H.B. Tristram (1822-1906) noted that, while `the capture of the ostrich is the greatest feat of hunting to which the Arab Sportsman aspires', it was `generally estimated that the capture of an ostrich or two must be at the sacrifice of the lives of two horses', so exhausting was the pursuit of a flock of ostrich (Prater 1921).
The author is holding a young Ostrich in one of the shops at Sharjah Birds and Animals Market, Sharjah City, United Arab Emirates. The price of a pair of young ostrich varies between 1200 - 3000 Emirati Dirham (330 - 820 US Dollars). Photo by the author’s wife: Ola Mostafa Khalaf. 02nd August 2010. http://arabian-ostrich.webs.com/
Finally, apart from ostrich feathers the only other main product sought by ostrich hunters seems to have been its fat (Cheesman 1923b) which was highly prized by some of the inhabitants of northern Arabia, such as the Sleb or Sulubba (Pieper 1923), a north Arabian nomadic group distinguished from their Bedouin neighbours by a variety of cultural traits. The difficulty of hunting ostrich, however, is again manifest in an account of Sleb ostrich hunting by Cheesman, who described how a Sleb hunter named Faraj, `clothed only in Gazelle skins, stalks the Ostriches on all fours. If he kills two or three in a year he considers he has done well' (Cheesman 1923b). Clearly, if a skilled Sleb hunter counted himself lucky to bag two or three ostriches in a year, and a less skilled Western observer could get no closer than 200-300 m, it stands to reason that the difficulty of stalking ostrich easily accounts for the absence of ostrich in Arabian faunal inventories, even in areas inhabited by the bird (Potts, 2001).
Ostrich Fat (Dahan Naam) Ointment sold in one of the shops at the Spice Souk, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It is used as natural live massage ointment and for rheumatic diseases, calming nerves, relieving headache, backache, aching shoulders and the spine. It is a warmth giving medium for cramps, stiffness, lumbago, sciatica and chest colds. It is made in Pakistan. Photo: Dr. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa. 14th August 2010. http://arabian-ostrich.webs.com/
The ancient range of the Arabian ostrich can be extended considerably when ostrich representations in rock-art and on pottery, as well as finds of ostrich egg-shell, are added to the evidence of 19th- and 20th-century sightings prior to the bird's extinction. This evidence, moreover, stands in stark contrast to the image gleaned from a traditional faunal analytical perspective which relies almost exclusively on osteological material to demonstrate the presence of a particular species. The very long tradition of ostrich egg-shell use by ancient and modern populations in Arabia provides us with a virtually unique example of the human `exploitation' of a resource derived from a bird which, for the most part, successfully eluded its would-be captors and killers until the advent of motorized travel and high-powered firearms (Potts, 2001).