The discovery at a 14,500-year-old site in Jordan shows that bread is at least 5,000 years older than previously thought. Scientists had thought that bread was not invented until after humans began farming.
New archeological evidence uncovered in northeastern Jordan has proven that humans made flatbread baked on a stone some 14,500 years ago — millennia before the development of agriculture. According to the findings detailed on Monday, the Natufian culture of the eastern Mediterranean achieved this cultural milestone long before scientists had previously thought.
"The presence of bread at a site of this age is exceptional," said University of Copenhagen postdoctoral researcher Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, lead author of the paper explaining the find in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"We now have to assess whether there was a relationship between bread production and the origins of agriculture," she added. "It is possible that bread may have provided an incentive for people to take up plant cultivation and farming, if it became a desirable or much-sought-after food."
Natufian culture developed in what is present-day Israel, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian territories between around 12,500 and 9,500 B.C. They founded the city of Jericho, which may be the oldest city in the world.
Previously, the oldest known sample of bread had been found at 9,100-year-old site in Turkey.
Bread revolutionized the human diet
The charred remains found in Jordan appear to be an anomaly and there is no evidence to suggest that Natufians ate bread regularly, the study found.
Co-author Tobias Richter emphasized the significance of bread to the development of human nutrition.
"Bread provides us with an important source of carbohydrates and nutrients, including B vitamins, iron and magnesium, as well as fiber," Richter said.
The scientists have already reproduced the bread according to the ancient recipe. Arranz-Otaegui described the results as "gritty and salty."
es/amp (Reuters, dpa)