Bread-making in the Ancient Near East

This is a request for resources. I plan to begin some research into bread-making in ancient Israel and in the ancient Near East. I will focus on bread production in the home, but am casting a wide net here at the beginning. So, I will even be looking into biblical grain offerings.

A live-yeast bread maker myself, I have from time to time essayed some early experiments in naan-type leavened flat loaves and in unleavened flat breads. I also have my eye on the kinds of sticky, wet doughs possibly suggested by the “queen of heaven” bread-molds and other terra cotta molds.

Without discounting the explanatory value of evidence from common-era societies, I mean to limit myself to primary evidence from Egypt, the Levant, and Mesopotamia, in the Bronze and Iron ages; perhaps, too, the Achaemenid  period around Judea.

Are there are resources you think I should take special care to find? Anything I might fruitfully keep in mind as I get started?

[Bread-making in the Ancient Near East was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2020/03/08. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

6 Responses

  1. Have you looked at Jean Bottéro’s two books on Mesopotamian recipes? The Eisenbrauns volume on culinary texts from Mesopotamia is in French, but Bottéro also wrote a popular work called The Oldest Cuisine in the World.

    Oh, and you have to blog on this if it comes about. I want easy-to-follow recipes and lots of pix.

  2. Hey , I am glad that you are doing this. It parallels some engaged learning that I am doing in a course on the world and words of the biblical prophets. So keep me posted.

    I have found some books helpful, which I am sure you know about–MacDonald, Borowski, King and Stager, Feinberg Vamosh.

    I suppose the most important thing is to try to get something that works with barley, and to figure out the right liquid. I think that those who say there was not beer in Israel (I know you are not focusing on Isrrael) because of the ready access to viticulture, are wrong.

    Send me what you have on the terra cotta bread molds.

    • Been loving Borowski and K&S this winter. Had MacDonald on my list, but the Feinberg Vamosh is new to me: Food at the Time of the Bible, I presume.

      Yes, barley experiments are in view, since I gather that was the bread of the masses. I’ll also look into varieties of wheat. I wonder how much a couple of blocks of basalt run these days?

      I can see why Num 6:3 has K&S at least considering classifying šēkar among the grape products, but I am not convinced that it doesn’t simply mean “beer” nonetheless.

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