London, Scientists have discovered the earliest
known evidence of bread-making, from a 14,000-year-old dig site.
The bake would have looked like a flatbread and tasted a bit like
today’s multi-grain varieties, they say.
Our ancestors may have used the bread as a wrap for roasted
meat. Thus, as well as being the oldest bread, it may also have been
the oldest sandwich.
The find, from the Black Desert in Jordan, pushes back the first
evidence for bread by more than 5,000 years.
The stone age bread-makers took flour made from wild wheat
and barley, mix it with the pulverised roots of plants, added water, and
then baked it.
The product would have looked like a flatbread and tasted a bit
like today’s multi-grain bread, they say.
“This is the earliest evidence we have for what we could really call a
cuisine, in that it’s a mixed food product,” Prof Dorian Fuller of
University College London said.
“They’ve got flatbreads, and they’ve got roasted gazelle and so forth,
and that’s something they are then using to make a meal”.
Bread has long been part of our staple diet. But little is known
about the origins of bread-making.
Until now, the oldest evidence of bread came from Turkey; those
finds are 9,000 years old.
Scientists uncovered two buildings, each containing a large
circular stone fireplace within which charred bread crumbs were found.
Analysed under the microscope, the bread samples showed
tell-tale signs of grinding, sieving and kneading.
Dr. Amaia Arranz-Otaegui of the University of Copenhagen,
who discovered the remains of the bread, said it was the last thing they
expected to find at the site.
“Bread is a powerful link between our past and present food cultures,”
she said. “It connects us with our prehistoric ancestors”.
The bread would have been made in several stages, including
“grinding cereals and club-rush tubers to obtain fine flour, mixing of
flour with water to produce dough, and baking the dough in the hot
ashes of a fireplace or in a hot flat-stone,” she explained.
The people living in the area at the time were hunter gatherers.
They would have hunted gazelle and trapped smaller animals, such as
hares and birds.
They also foraged for plant foods, such as nuts, fruits and wild
The researchers think the bread was made when people
gathered together for a celebration or feast.
This happened before the advent of farming, when people
started growing cereal crops and keeping animals.
This raises the intriguing possibility that growing cereals for
bread may have been the driving force behind farming.
“The significance of this bread is that it shows investment of extra effort
into making food that has mixed ingredients,” said Prof Fuller. “So,
making some sort of a recipe, and that implies that bread played a
special role for special occasions.
“That in turn suggests one of the possible motivations as to why people
later chose to cultivate and domesticate wheat and barley, because
wheat and barley were species that already had a special place in
terms of special foods”.
The bread was unleavened and would have resembled a wrap,
pitta bread or chapatti.
Researchers have tried to reconstruct the recipe in the lab. They
say the mixed grains gave the bread a nutty flavour, much like today’s
Lara Gonzalez Carretero, from the UCL Institute of
Archaeology, who is an expert on prehistoric bread, examined the 24
crumbs under an electron microscope.
“This would be a bread made of wild wheat and wild barley flour, mixed
with water, and cooked on a hearth on a fireplace,” she said.
“There’s also the addition of wild tuber flour into it which gives a slightly
nutty, bitter flavour to it,” the BBC reported.
Source: Oman News Agency