Take flour made from wild wheat and barley, mix with the pulverized roots of plants, add water, then bake the dough in the hot ashes of a fireplace or on a hot flat-stone. Ground beans such as chick peas and lentils also could have been added.
According to scientists, this is the recipe for the world’s oldest bread, dating back more than 14,000 years. The baked bread would have looked like a flatbread and tasted a bit like today’s multi-grain bread. The bread was unleavened and would have resembled a wrap like pitta bread, chapatti or even a hand made Matzah.
Our ancestors may have used the unleavened bread as a wrap for roasted meat. Thus, as well as being the oldest bread, it may also have been the oldest sandwich wrap. 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 9,000 years ago. The latest find, from an archaeological site in the Black Desert in Jordan, pushes back the first evidence for bread-making by more than 5,000 years.
Scientists uncovered two buildings, each containing a large circular stone fireplace within which charred bread crumbs were found. Analyzed under the microscope, the bread samples showed tell-tale signs of grinding, sieving and kneading.
The bread would have been made in several stages, including grinding cereals made from wild wheat and wild barley, pounding tubers (roots) of wild plants that grow in water (sedges or bull-rushes) into a dry pulp, mixing the flour with water to produce dough, and baking the dough in the hot ashes of a fireplace or on a hot flat-stone”.
The researchers think the extra effort to bake bread was made when people gathered together for a religious celebration or feast that involved eating unleavened bread with roasted meat. This happened before the advent of farming, when people started intentionally 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 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.”