‘World’s oldest bread’ joins list of intriguing discoveries in July 2018

Published On July 18, 2018 | By anamkhan | Sci/Tech

A stone structure at an archeological site containing a fireplace, seen in the middle, where charred remains of 14,500-year-old bread was found in the Black Desert in northeastern Jordan. (Alexis Pantos/Handout)

Anam Khan and Steven MacInnis

The remains of 14,500-year-old bread were found in a stone fireplace in the Black Desert in northeast Jordan on Monday.

This is a groundbreaking find for archaeologists, suggesting bread was made before the advent of agriculture 4,000 years ago. 

“Every time somebody collects some plant remains from the period before people believe agriculture began, we find data that changes our perspective. I think archeologists have underestimated the people of that time period,” said Gary Crawford, a Professor of Archaeology at the University of Toronto.

Crawford said there has been other documented research in the Ohalo II archaeological site near the Sea of Galilee that shows people were harvesting wheat and barley about 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. He also said archaeologists working on that collection show that people were effectively domesticating those plants, and the plants were responding to human selection.

“I think what we’re discovering is that they had a rich knowledge of plants and they had a rich cuisine and I’m really pleased they found this early evidence for bread,” Crawford said.

“A lot of what we look for is fragile and it does not preserve well easily. To get this hard evidence of a type of bread from 14,000 years ago seems unimaginable and an amazing piece of science,” he said.

The ancient bread isn’t the only recent discovery of importance and of interest to archaeologists.

A 2,000-year-old unopened tomb made of black granite was discovered in Alexandria, Egypt, earlier this month, the largest ever to be found in the city.

The mysterious sarcophagus was unearthed on July 1 by construction workers digging for the construction of a new building.

The discovery had people taking to Twitter to heed warnings of opening the tomb.

The sarcophagus has since been opened by archaeologists.

Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner, Associate Professor of the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto, said the significance of the find is partly related to its location.

“It is significant because first of all, it is a sarcophagus,” she said. “There haven’t been a lot of mortuary remains from a site that are known.”

Archaeologists who opened the sarcophagus said the body was still intact and in the same position is had been buried.

The tomb is from the Ptolemaic period, which dates between 305 BCE to 30 BCE. Ptolemy I was appointed as a satrap, or general, after the passing of Alexander the Great.

Some people have been theorizing that the sarcophagus could be that of Alexander the Great.

“These discoveries tend to make people’s imaginations go wild,” Crawford said.

Pouls Wegner said it is unlikely the sarcophagus is of Alexander the Great because the curation of his body was very politically important.

She said his successors wanted to bring his body back to the city he founded so they could build a huge monument around it but there does not appear to be a large tomb around this sarcophagus.

“We don’t have a broad exposure either so it could be part of a big monument,” Pouls Wegner said. “It was probably somebody who was a very high, elite.”

Crawford said he thinks that if there’s human remains inside that sarcophagus then DNA remains could be a crucial aspect in determining the person’s identity.

“No matter who it is they are going to learn something about the lineage of that person,” he said.

The Ptolemaic era was during a time in Egypt filled with influences from Greece and Rome.

“The sarcophagus form was something that was Egyptian, the material it was made of was Egyptian, but the burial itself may incorporate Greek elements as well, so it may have a more naturalistic representation of the body,” Pouls Wegner said.  

“It’s bringing together different cultures. We don’t know what’s inside it of course. You would expect that it is bringing elements from elite Egyptian culture, Hellenic culture and maybe even Roman,” she said.

Humber News compiled a list of the top-10 discoveries in July 2018 so far:

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