YEREVAN (Miami Herald/ancient-origins.net) — Archaeologists have uncovered a 3,000-year-old bakery in Metsamor, Armenia, astonishingly, still housing several sacks worth of flour embedded in the soil. The discovery was made within the remnants of a large structure, housing multiple ovens, which had succumbed to a fire.
“The flour has been preserved in the form of bright spots. At first glance, it looked like light burned ash. Thanks to flotation (rinsing) we proved that it is flour, not ash,” reported the head of research, Professor Krzysztof Jakubiak from the Faculty of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw.
The flour had formed a layer several dozen centimeters thick. It is estimated that up to 3.5 tons of flour was originally stored in the building. Unfortunately, only a few sacks worth of organic material has survived over the centuries. It was primarily wheat flour that was used, and quantities point to large-scale production and a certain culture of bread making within the region, both at a micro and macro level.
Similar discoveries of flour have been made in the wider Armenian region, such as the fortress settlement of Tejszebaini (currently known as Karmir Blur), which belonged to the ancient Urartu kingdom. The Caucasus region has a history of using flour for divination purposes, which could potentially alter the interpretation of the building’s function, but this remains to be examined further.
The palatial-sized structure was in use from the end of the 11th century BC right up until the beginning of the 9th century BC, functioning initially as a public building. Later on, with furnaces being added, the building took on an economic role — a communal space where people used wheat flour to bake bread. Eventually, a fire led to the collapse of the structure. Perhaps there were several other transitionary periods in the middle, but this is unclear as of now.
All in all, the building consisted of two rows of 18 wooden columns which supported a reed roof with a wooden entablature. The wooden elements have not survived the ravages of time, but the stone column bases and well-preserved burnt fragments of beams and roof plating have, giving a glimpse into the original construction.