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Bread: the Daily Grind

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In the Bronze and Iron Age, bread was the staple food. Since it was prepared almost every day, bread-making was one of the main activities of a household. People in Canaan and Ancient Israel consumed between 330 - 440 lbs. of wheat and barley per year. An individual typically consumed 50 - 70 % of calories from these cereals -- mostly eaten in the form of bread.

The grinding of grain was done by hand, using a quern: this consisted of a fixed lower stone, called a metate, and a moveable upper stone or mano. The quern was made of basalt, a course volcanic stone, which was preferred for the process because of its rough surface and relatively light weight. The grain was ground on the course surface to break down the soft center of the kernel into flour. It was a very laborious process and had the disadvantage of producing basalt grit which got into the bread and gradually wore down the teeth.

Bread was baked in small domed clay ovens, or tabun. Archaeologists have excavated ancient ovens which were usually made by encircling clay coils or from re-used pottery jars. The oven was heated on the interior using dung for fuel; flat breads were baked against the interior side walls.

Grain could also be eaten as a porridge or seeped in water and fermented to make beer. The fermented liquid was poured through ceramic strainers to separate the beer from the barley sediment. Among the vessels in this exhibit are a beer strainer and an Egyptian beer jug.

< Egyptian beer jug




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