Bread in Ancient Egypt

in all its splendor

I think most Americans take bread for granted. Sure all these carb-fearing diets don’t exactly give it the best reputation, but it’s still a food option people! And it has been for quite a few years.

Since 2,600 B.C.E. to be exact.

At least that’s what evidence tells us: that Egyptians were baking bread around this time, something they may have adopted from the Babylonians.

5,000-year-old bread




The Egyptians usually made their bread out of emmer wheat, which requires an intensive process to separate the chaff, or seed casings, from the grains of emmer without damaging the grain.

Despite their technological advancements, Egyptians had a hard time sieving out whole and partly-crushed grains, as shown in pieces of 5,000-year-old bread found in tombs.

Sidetracked: The Egyptians also struggled to keep their flour free from the grit of their quern emplacements, or wheat grinding stones, which this led to severe tooth decay. Even the ninth pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, Amenhotep III, suffered from this.

Check out this relief from the tomb of Ramses III, depicting his royal bakery:

Notice how many different types of breads they’re making. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as bread and beer were staples in Egyptian cuisine, regardless of which class you belonged to.

Egyptian breadIn particular, the animal-shaped breads are thought to have been used for sacrificial ceremonies. Maybe the Egyptians were more humane than the Aztecs? Or they just ran out of prisoners to sacrifice faster? I guess we’ll never know.

Bakers also made cone-shaped loaves that were used for daily offerings, which required hundreds of these to be made by temple bakeries.

more super stale bread, from an 18th Dynasty tomb

Bread in Ancient Egypt.” Retrieved 13 August 2012.
Hawass, Zahi. Silent Images: Women in Pharanoic Egypt. Accessed 13 August 2012.
The History of Baking and Pastry Cooking.” Retrieved 13 August 2012.