Was Bread Part of the Paleolithic Diet After All?

Archeologists have unearthed early evidence of bread-making.

Paleo-diet adherents, please sit down: Archeologists have recently unearthed a bit of toast believed to be about 14,400 years old, indicating that bread may actually have been part of our Paleolithic-era ancestors’ diets after all.

The analysis of 24 bits of charred food found in two basalt-stone fireplaces in a Natufian hunter-gatherer site in northeastern Jordan called Shubayqa 1 indicates that bread-making could predate the emergence of agriculture, in the Neolithic era, by about 4,000 years, say researchers involved with the discovery, who published their findings in the scientific journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

While the evidence suggests that ancient hunter-gatherers produced flat bread-like foods using cereals like wild einkorn and club-rush tubers, the authors contend, these bread-like products probably didn’t become dietary staples until the Neolithic era, when farmers cultivated the cereals used to make them.

The discovery marks what appears to be the oldest known evidence of bread-making, predating by 5,000 years evidence of bread-making found at Çatalhöyük, a 9,500-year-old settlement in southern Anatolia, Turkey, Gizmodo reports.

That’s a big deal. Study co-author Tobias Richter, associate professor at the University of Copenhagen, told Gizmodo the discovery of the bread was surprising in that it “predates the advent of agriculture and farming—it was always thought that it was the other way round,” as well as that the bread itself “was of high quality, since it was made using quite fine flour. We didn’t expect to find such high-quality flour this early on in human history.”

Also unexpected, Richter said, was the fact that the bread contains not only wild barley, wheat and oat flour but also flour made from tubers, making it “more of a multi-grain-tuber bread,” than a regular old white bread.

Not that anyone expected Paleolithic hunter-gatherers to be chowing down on Wonder Bread or anything.

Photo: iStock

Next Up

Allies and Enemies — Alton's After-Show

Watch Food Network's Cutthroat Kitchen: Alton's After-Show hosted by Alton Brown.


What's New