The story behind a loaf of bread


E.Botham and Sons

Bread, in one form or another, has been one of the principal forms of food for man from earliest times.

The trade of the baker, then, is one of the oldest crafts in the world. Loaves and rolls have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. In the British Museum's Egyptian galleries you can see actual loaves which were made and baked over 5,000 years ago. Also on display are grains of wheat which ripened in those ancient summers under the Pharaohs. Wheat has been found in pits where human settlements flourished 8,000 years ago. Bread, both leavened and unleavened, is mentioned in the Bible many times. The ancient Greeks and Romans knew bread for a staple food even in those days people argued whether white or brown bread was best.

Further back, in the Stone Age, people made solid cakes from stone-crushed barley and wheat. A millstone used for grinding corn has been found, that is thought to be 7,500 years old. The ability to sow and reap cereals may be one of the chief causes which led man to dwell in communities, rather than to live a wandering life hunting and herding cattle.

According to botanists, wheat, oats, barley and other grains belong to the order of Grasses; nobody has yet found the wild form of grass from which wheat, as we know it, has developed. Like most of the wild grasses, cereal blossoms bear both male and female elements. The young plants are provided with a store of food to ensure their support during the period of germination, and it is in this store of reserve substance that man finds an abundant supply of food. Bas-relief.
Harvesting grain in Ancient Egypt. From a bas-relief, about 2650 B.C.

Ancient Egyptian word-pictures, or hieroglyphs, concerning bread

Symbols for bread
Various symbols
for bread
Symbols for grain

Two symbols for grain


loaves large
'loaves large'

let me live upon bread and barley of white my ale made of grain red
'let me live upon bread and barley of white my ale made of grain red'