Bread Existed 4000 Years Before Agriculture, Archaeologists Discover

“Paleo bread” was a real thing! Scientists discover bread made by hunter-gatherers 4000 years before grain was ever cultivated.

Archaeologists discover bread that predates agriculture by 4,000 years
Stone fireplace in Jordan where bread remains were found. Credit: Alexis Pantos

Researchers have discovered the remains of flatbread baked by hunter-gatherers 14,400 years ago at an archaeological site in the Black Desert in Jordan.

The findings suggest bread baking predated the advent of agriculture by at least 4,000 years.

They also suggest it may have been hunter-gatherers’ taste for wild-grain bread that led to grain cultivation and the agricultural revolution.

A new technology called electron microscopy enabled a team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen, University College London and University of Cambridge to identify the charred remains as the wild ancestors of domesticated barley, einkorn, and oats.

The grains had been ground, sieved and kneaded prior to cooking.

Bread-making is a labor intensive process, noted Professor Dorian Fuller of the UCL Institute of Archaeology:

“That it was produced before farming suggests it was seen as special, and the desire to make more of this special food probably contributed to the decision to cultivate cereals.”

Archaeologists discover bread that predates agriculture by 4,000 years
Dr. Amaia Arranz-Otaegui and Ali Shakaiteer sampling cereals in the Shubayqa area. Credit: Joe Roe

“Natufian hunter-gatherers are of particular interest to us because they lived through a transitional period when people became more sedentary and their diet began to change,” University of Copenhagen archaeologist Tobias Richter, who led the excavations, said in a press release.

Flint sickle blades as well as ground stone tools previously found at Natufian sites hinted at wild grain gathering, but this is the first empirical evidence of bread making.

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One response to “Bread Existed 4000 Years Before Agriculture, Archaeologists Discover”

  1. Jeanette Schuler Avatar
    Jeanette Schuler

    Unlike meat and vegetables, grain will store a long time. Perhaps with the grain, they did not have to be on the go looking for more food and could then have the luxury of making goods, inventing, entertainment. culture came along, or physical culture when agriculture came along. they did not have pots-they would have to carry them around anyway- to boil the grains so grinding and adding water to bake a paste on a rock only a flat rock required?