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Bread Chronology

It's like a chicken-and-egg question. How on earth can grain be ground centuries before it was grown? (From here, via Mirabilis.)

Rotary querns were found in many excavated Iron Age sites (800BC-400AD), which would seem to indicate that bread-making was an integral part of daily life in many Irish homes, made with oats, barley, wheat and rye, which were grown since the early mediaeval period (5-11 Centuries).


While I'm on the subject of food, two of England's better restaurants are currently located in Leeds. I'll be spending a week in Leeds in mid-July - but I'm not sure I'll be spending it with anyone whose company I could impose upon to go with me to either of them. I would far rather enjoy an elegant dinner with good company than by myself. It's a dilemma.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
crustycurmudgeo
Apr. 16th, 2005 02:54 am (UTC)
I would guess the growing conditions in Ireland back then were such that wild grains were profuse enough for harvesting.
owlfish
Apr. 16th, 2005 03:54 am (UTC)
That would be a sensible interpretation of the passage, but it's not exactly what it says. Also, surely the transition from hunter-gatherer to farming happened longer ago in Ireland than the fifth century. I'm intrigued as to what the background story really is here, that this paragraph did a sloppy job of summarizing.
crustycurmudgeo
Apr. 16th, 2005 04:23 am (UTC)
Ah... Rereading and doing a little google research, the problem is one of when those grains were grown in Ireland. The BBC [1] says 'corn' was the iron age crop and was cultivated [2] in plowed fields. So oats, barley, wheat and rye could have been Roman imports.

Now I'm curious about the corn. Was/is it the same as that the North American indigens cultivated? If so, did the new world corn come originally from the Spanish invaders and spread to the north eastern tribes or was it traded earlier at some of the earliest english colonies? And in Ireland, what sort of food was prepared from this iron age corn? Beer? Bread? Both were valued back then, and today! :)
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Refs:
1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/prehistory/ironage_tasks_gallery_10.shtml
2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/prehistory/ironage_tasks_gallery_06.shtml

owlfish
Apr. 16th, 2005 04:27 am (UTC)
I can answer your corn question, and it is sadly less interesting than you are hoping. "Corn" is a British term for grain. I'm relieved to know that they were cultivated crops in Ireland though. I would have been surprised to learn otherwise.

I'll read up more on Iron Age cuisine this weekend - and hopefully Irish excavation evidence in particular.
ivpiter
Apr. 16th, 2005 04:58 am (UTC)
Guns Germs and Steel is a very interesting read. It goes on a bit about the early harvesting of various grains and how they were slowly transformed into modern grains. One example is maize, which 5,000 years ago was barely (barley?) recognizable and came in a much harder (and smaller) husk.

I'm guessing the grains were first just gathered. Then gathered and crushed. Then eventually added with water. Then added with fire. The first loaf probably only took a few thousand years.
aca
Apr. 16th, 2005 08:46 am (UTC)
I think when we say corn we mean maize, and we say sweetcorn when we mean corn. Is that it?
owlfish
Apr. 16th, 2005 11:59 am (UTC)
No, that's not it either, because we use maize as a synonym for sweet corn.

When not a general term for grain, I thought corn (UK) was used to describe wheat in particular.

The Wikipedia entry for Maize tells me "Maize (Zea mays ssp. mays), called corn in the United States, Canada, and Australia, is a staple food grain from Mesoamerica.

There are regional variations in terminology. In North American it is known as corn. In Australia, the term corn is often restricted to sweetcorn, with maize or field corn used for other varieties. In the United Kingdom, the term corn is used in its older and more general sense to refer to all cereals, but sometimes especially to wheat in England and to oats in Scotland."
aca
Apr. 16th, 2005 12:11 pm (UTC)
Furry nuff. Wikipedia to the rescue, as ever. :)
tisiphone
Apr. 16th, 2005 10:11 am (UTC)
Obviously, the ancient Celts were an advanced civilization, who had developed time machines already. Why grow grain when you can build an advanced civilization by the power of wild game and dropped fruit, make time machines, and steal it from medieval peasants?
tammabanana
Apr. 16th, 2005 11:22 am (UTC)
Brilliant!!!
owlfish
Apr. 16th, 2005 12:00 pm (UTC)
So THAT'S what Stonehenge was for.
ivpiter
Apr. 16th, 2005 02:41 pm (UTC)
I keep forgetting.... was it

Clockwise... time rise,
Widdershin... don't kill kin. ???

No wonder I'm stuck in the 21st century. And 40 years before the good bits happen, even.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )