Baking Emmer Bread in Ancient Egypt – Discoveries from Amarna

The side of the excavations being discussed is the old capital of Amarna, the city built by the pharaoh Ikhnaton.  Source - Samuel-Bread making and social interactions...

The site of the excavations being discussed is the old capital of Amarna, the city built by the pharaoh Ikhnaton. Source – Samuel-Bread making and social interactions…

Dr Delwen Samuel is an archaeobotanist and a leading expert in the production of bread and beer in ancient Egypt – particularly at the site of the Amarna Project (1353–1336 BC); shown in the map, above.  Through both archaeology and using bread-making tools of the era, she has identified an important step in the production of emmer bread that has been left out of ‘recipes’ that are based solely on artistic records:

Pounding emmer spikelets in the mortar (Fig. 6) very quickly established that water was essential for successful de-husking.  The quantity is not critical, but, if there is too little, most of the spikelets fly out of the mortar, whereas too much water makes them slosh out of the shallow bowl.

Source - Samuel-A new look at old bread

Source – Samuel-A new look at old bread

It does not take long to pound a measure of emmer spikelets but it requires strength and stamina.  The ancient Egyptians who carried out the pounding had to repeat the process over and over again, because the small mortars could take only a limited volume of spikelets at a time. …

Source - Samuel-Bread making and social interactions.

The steps that are needed is the 3rd down – ‘pounding with small amount of water’ and then drying.  Source – Samuel-Bread making and social interactions.

… I made replicas of the tools [used], based on specimens
excavated from arid settlement sites or recovered from tombs. Excavations showed that the ancient Amarna villagers built
elaborate mud-brick and plaster rims around their mortars … or simply set the mortars into the ground with the rim protruding slightly…

The following references have been used in briefly describing the ‘water-step’ in Delwen’s work:

Samuel – Bread Making and Social Interaction at the Amarna Workmen’s Village

Samuel – A New Look at Old Bread...

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About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
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4 Responses to Baking Emmer Bread in Ancient Egypt – Discoveries from Amarna

  1. ritaroberts says:

    Great ! Looking forward to that Diana.

    Like

  2. ritaroberts says:

    Very interesting post Diana. Especially about the Mortars, setting them into the ground with just their rims showing. I must look for the BaTwa pots.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dianabuja says:

      Good idea. There is a major issues here, however – in that many/most folks don’t realize that the writings belonging to the depictions on tomb walls, are not recipes – but are usually conversations carried out amongst those shown! Think I’ll do a little blog about this!

      Like

      • ritaroberts says:

        Hi Diana, I have just looked up about the BaTwa pots and read all about the people. If you do a blog about this I will re-blog it. O.K. I note that despite the plight of these people they always seem to be smiling. Wonderful !!

        Like

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